Productive Disruptions: Scaling Access
by Jessie L. Moore
Last week I posited that four productive disruptions (scaling access, building partnerships, thinking globally locally, and closing the loop with the scholarship of teaching and learning) can put pressure on our understanding of engaged learning and our integration of engaged learning practices on our campuses. These four disruptions are productive because they foster creative problem-solving and serve as a catalyst for developing new goals and practices.
To introduce the first of these productive disruptions, scaling access, here’s a short video of Ashley Finley, the national evaluator for the Bringing Theory to Practice (BTtoP) Project, discussing high-impact practices and the need to learn more about distributing these practices across campus to involve more students:
It may seem counterintuitive that scaling access would help embed engaged learning, but when you think about scaling access, you have to think about the key characteristics you need to retain in order to successfully deliver a high-impact experience. In academic service-learning, at Elon, that meant thinking about required curricular components for courses to receive a service-learning designation, developing a service-learning scholars program to help faculty consider how to integrate those components into their classes, and developing a review system to examine if long-standing service-learning courses had retained those components.
For internships, scaling access has meant helping faculty – particularly in the Arts & Sciences – think about their role as faculty mentors, in partnership with the student intern and a site supervisor. It also has meant offering faculty development – lunch and learns, reading groups, and one-on-one consultations – about best practices in credit-bearing internships.
For mentored undergraduate research, scaling access has meant thinking about varied mentoring models – such as research teams and multi-mentoring – to redistribute, but not lose, the high number of contact hours and attention to developmental stages that makes many one-on-one mentoring models successful. Researchers in the Center’s seminar on Excellence in Mentoring Undergraduate Research note that “The theoretical constructs surrounding multi-mentoring models as a high impact practice are in place,” but more inquiry is needed about these models to inform broader implementation.
In each of these examples, efforts to increase access – opening participation to more students across majors and demographic groups – led to reflections on what constitutes institutional success in offering a high-impact practice. In other words, what key characteristics should all students participating in the practice experience, regardless of whether 50 students participate or 5,000? As a productive disruption, then, efforts to scale access spark conversations about what an institution values about its high-impact educational practices and about new processes that can replicate those valued characteristics for more students.
Jessie L. Moore (@jessielmoore) is the Associate Director of the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon University and associate professor of Professional Writing & Rhetoric in the Department of English.