Posted by: Ellie Kutz | June 1, 2011

Lessons from the Top: Teaching, Technology, and Institutional Leadership

Lessons from the Top:  Teaching, Technology, and Institutional Leadership

We all know of at least some of the public duties our Chancellor,Keith Motley, performs at UMass Boston.  But not everyone knows that he also assumes a teaching role each summer in the capstone course of the doctoral program in Higher Education Administration:  Leadership in Theory and Practice (co-taught withJohn Saltmarsh).  Or that he and his students have been using the campus’s online learning management system, Blackboard. 

As the luncheon keynote speaker for this year’s combined CIT and Educational Technology Conference, Chancellor Motley reflected on what he has learned from his experience of teaching now that  students can connect to their professors at all moments (even at a baseball game) and how that connection contributes to a new teaching and learning environment.  Sharing the podium, Chancellor Motley invited two of his doctoral students, Ravi Lakshmikanthan (who is also the Assistant Dean, at the Heller School, Brandeis University) and Andres Reyes who is also a professor of ESL and Education at Bunker Hill Community College), to show how Blackboard was used to create a collaborative teaching and learning environment in the course and to talk about how, in their own experience, that work is connected to the program’s focus on collaborative leadership in higher education.  One feature of the course was the use of Blackboard’s threaded discussion to prepare questions for visiting guests.  Ravi and Andres found that the site fostered their collaboration with their fellow students, allowing them to work to generate questions that would be “exciting for each other as well as for the speaker,” to offer feedback to each other, and to get feedback from their teachers.

Students were also involved in the co-construction of a virtual toolbox of materials that they will use for their work as educational administrators, extending this metaphor with a physical toolbox that they presented to the Chancellor on the final day of class.

According to the course syllabus for Higher Ed 629:  “The issue at hand is the kind of leadership that will effectively bring about the kinds of changes in higher education that are needed for a 21st century education, fulfilling the academic and civic purposes of higher education.”

One important change that has been taking place in higher education has been a shift from what has been termed a “knowledge delivery paradigm” to a “learner-centered paradigm” with an emphasis on engaged student learning and students’ construction of knowledge.” At the same time, the capstone course in leadership emphasizes the idea that 

 The institutional shift toward learner-centeredness cannot be achieved without academic leaders who fully understand the concept of the learner-centered paradigm and who are willing to reconsider their roles in light of this new paradigm and to adopt administrative practices that reflect the culture and values of the learner-centered paradigm (Harris and Cullen, 34).

In his presentation, the Chancellor reflected on how important it was for the capstone course itself both to model the sorts of collaborative teaching and learning approaches that are most effective for student learning and to connect this experience to models of collaborative and innovative leadership.  He has found that, through co-teaching in this course with his colleagueJohn Saltmarshand with students who are future leaders and educational change agents, he has been able to share directly in (and contribute directly to) the sort of teaching and learning environment that we hope to foster both here at UMass Boston and in the other institutions of higher education that the doctoral program graduates are affiliated with). And he reaffirmed his own commitment to making UMass Boston a research university with a teaching soul. 

Harris, M. & Cullen, R. (2010) Leading the Learner-Centered Campus:  An Administrator’s Framework for Improving Student Learning Outcomes.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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