RC20/20 Project Description

The Reinvention Collaborative is launching a multi-year set of staged initiatives to articulate and implement a vision for student-centered undergraduate learning experiences that fully leverage the distinctive capabilities of research universities to meet the educational needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students.  The first stage includes presentations at the 2018 national conference.  Following post-conference revisions and editorial approval, the presentations – which may be of many different types, including papers, e-portfolios, and reports with links to digital materials – will become part of a digital volume published by the Reinvention Collaborative.  The second stage will build on the first and become the focus of the 2020 national conference.  Since the 2018 conference falls on the twentieth anniversary of the Boyer Commission Report and the 2020 conference coincides with the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the Reinvention Center, the two sets of initiatives are entitled RC20/20.

The working title for the digital publication based on the 2018 conference is Cultivating Curiosity, Creativity, and Discovery – Undergraduate Educational Experiences at America’s Research Universities.  The focus on curiosity, creativity, and discovery applies both to the characteristics the undergraduate experience should cultivate in students and to an overarching commitment by universities to cultivate an ongoing process of institutional discovery about the impact of different practices.

The volume will begin by articulating a vision of student-centered learning experiences that fully leverage the capacities of research universities to meet the educational needs of today’s and tomorrow’s undergraduate students.  Those capacities include opportunities to cultivate an ethos of discovery through engaged curricular and co-curricular learning, mentored research, and other creative activities. In this context, discovery not only includes substantive discoveries that emerge out of sustained inquiry or serendipitous “eureka” moments, but also self-discovery.  Self-discovery is a central part of students’ intellectual and personal maturation and their post-graduation personal and professional success.

It is critical that this vision of the undergraduate educational experience convey a sense of urgency animated by the practical and ethical imperatives to move beyond aspiration to accomplishment.  Creating and sustaining undergraduate experiences that fully leverage the distinctive capacities of research universities will require a companion commitment to institutional self-discovery.  Fortunately, research universities have an unparalleled capacity to conduct and apply research on learning and the effects of institutional practices on degree completion and students’ post-graduation success as self-directed, life-long learners.  The explosion in knowledge about learning, degree completion, and post-graduation success makes it possible to extend the vision of the opportunities for distinctive undergraduate educational experiences at research universities beyond those outlined in the Boyer Report.  It is within the reach of universities to make and deliver on a promise that their programs of study and curricular and co-curricular educational experiences are based, implemented, and evaluated on research about learning, degree completion, and cultivating continued creativity after graduation.

Two sets of theoretical issues are central to any understanding of how such a vision could be achieved.  The first set involves the interrelated institutional and educational practices that must be connected to maximize the impact of innovations on student learning, persistence to graduation, and post-graduation success.  The second set involves identifying relevant theories of educational and institutional change.

The “vision essay” will, therefore, be followed by separate essays on these two sets of issues.  The decision to write an essay on mapping interconnections that promote cumulative, self-reinforcing outcomes reflects an important conclusion: the recognition that over and over again individual curricular, pedagogical, and motivational initiatives that are thoughtfully conceived and conscientiously implemented have failed to have cumulative effects large enough to move university-level outcomes.  The problem is less that innovation is not occurring than that individual innovations are not systematically connected.  The institution-level impact of individual curricular, pedagogical, and motivational initiatives depends on other, mutually reinforcing pieces being in place.  When they are, the interaction effects become the educational equivalents of economic multipliers.

The essay on mapping interconnections will set the stage for an evaluation of different theories of institutional change.  Depending on what dimensions of change analysts are trying to predict – e.g., student or faculty motivation to innovative, perceptions of opportunity, beliefs about inclusion and identity, levels of knowledge about research-based pedagogy, the impact of variations in curricular structure on vertical or horizontal mobility through programs of study – different theories of change will apply.  Expectations about the impact of these separate dimensions on larger structural or cultural characteristics of universities will involve still different theoretical understandings.

These three foundational essays – the vision, the interconnected pieces, and the relevant theories of change – will be followed by case studies showcasing member universities’ experiences translating research on learning, degree completion, post-graduation success, and institutional change into distinctive undergraduate educational experiences.  The volume will conclude with a meta-analysis of the findings that includes recommendations for how universities can do a 360-degree scan of their distinctive situations to identify strategically targeted initiatives that can optimize the impact of research-based efforts to promote persistence while cultivating self-directed learners who are curious, creative, and committed to sustained inquiry and discovery.

The RC20/20 plan calls for inviting proposals and nominations for presentations on these topics at the 2018 national conference.  Feedback on the conference drafts and presentations will then inform decisions by the Editorial and Advisory Boards on who will be invited to draft the published versions of the three foundational essays and the meta-analysis.  Presentations on the cases showcasing member university initiatives will be published after editorial approval of post-conference revisions.

The 2018 project will lay the groundwork for the 2020 project.  Members of the Reinvention Collaborative will be able to use the 2018 project to do an analysis of their universities’ distinctive situations.  This assessment will create opportunities to identify new strategically targeted initiatives that can optimize the impact of each university’s research-based efforts to promote completion while cultivating self-regulated learners who are curious, creative, and committed to sustained inquiry and discovery.  Evaluations of these targeted initiatives could lead to new case studies and meta-analyses that would be presented and discussed at the 2020 national conference.

The RC20/20 project is designed to significantly improve our understanding of universities’ efforts to advance the undergraduate educational experience.  This understanding will, in turn, increase member universities’ ability to design, implement, evaluate, and highlight research-based programs that sustain continuous improvement in learning, degree completion, and post-graduation success.

Request for Proposals

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