Questions about the value of higher education and governmental focus on its costs continue to filter into discussions about colleges and universities. From Our Underachieving Colleges (Derek Bok, 2006) to Academically Adrift (Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, 2011) to news stories around the globe (for example), higher education’s status quo is being called into question.

As Robert J. Thompson, Jr. writes in the introduction to Changing the Conversation about Higher Education, “the current conversation about undergraduate education is dominated by: criticism of the effectiveness of educational practices and the quality of student learning, debates about the validity and utility of assessment approaches, and conflict regarding the locus of responsibility for accountability” (2013, pp. 1-2).

Fortunately, a growing number of scholars are recognizing the potential of the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) to change campus cultures about student learning. Changing the Conversation, for example, features three-year projects supported by a Teagle Foundation and Spencer Foundation partnership to foster “a culture of experimentation and evidence for undergraduate education” (emphasis original). Thompson describes the project’s focus on research universities as a conscientious decision to change the conversation about undergraduate learning at the institutions that prepare future faculty.

The Center for Engaged Learning’s research seminars promote a similar goal by supporting multi-institutional research on focused engaged learning topics. The Center accepts applications from higher education scholars around the globe who want to investigate, assess, and improve higher education’s support for student learning around high-impact practices.

Collectively, these types of research initiatives illustrate an attempt to shift campus cultures, previewing Lee Shulman’s vision for SoTL as a cultural norm in higher education:

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.

How to cite this post:

Moore, Jessie L. 2014, January 9. Sparking a Cultural Shift in Higher Education. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from