Hopeful GRIT: The Path to Tenacious Retention

by Dr. Paul Criss, Dean of Belhaven – Memphis/DeSoto

Hopeful GRIT is an introduction to Angela Duckworth’s work on GRIT and Ray Johnston’s work on Hope Quotient with the intent of applying principles in the classroom to improve student retention and overall performance.

Eighty Four percent of students want faculty who will be concerned about them as a person and their success. Hopeful GRIT is a model of how to help students build their perseverance muscles and improve their academic performance. Angela Duckworth conducted studies involving National Spelling Bee champions, elite military trained graduates, and top corporate sales people to determine if the secret to their success was talent or effort. The science showed that GRIT – the sustained application of effort towards a long-term goal, is the biggest predictor of lifelong achievement. GRIT can grow by helping students identify their interests, improve the quality of their practice, connect their work to their purpose, and finally create a sense of hope through the entire journey.

Hope liberates by releasing us from past mistakes. Hope motivates by helping us bounce back. Hope initiates by setting us free to dream. Hope actives by providing the fuel needed to make the world a better place. Hope is the greatest gift we can give and grow in our students. Ray Johnston says that hope is “a state of being God creates in you.” He encourages the building of seven hope-building factors in our life. I want to emphasize the third one: refocusing on the future by asking “what can this become?” Jesus did this when he called the disciples saying, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17 NASB). Jesus was not focused on what people were like; he was focused on what they could become. Are we seeing our students and their work through this same lens: what can they become?

Five years ago, the retention rate in our graduate business program at the Memphis campus was 67 percent. We changed the way we taught the program’s gateway course and attempted to be more intentional about motivation by incorporating mini-lectures on grit, hope, dreaming, and addressing thoughts that had the potential to sabotage a student’s success. We have seen some good results in that by 2016 the retention rate increased to 82 percent and in 2017 it was up to 90%.

Some points of reflection for you consider might be 1) how can we develop and strengthen GRIT in our students? 2) how can we become better purveyors of hope to inspire students? 3) how can this be accomplished in various teaching venues: on-ground or online? Hopefully, you can see the value of encouraging students, developing their perseverance muscles, and helping them persist until they reach the goal set before them in their academic studies. The  PDF at this LINK provides the entire presentation and may help spark some more ideas to this end.

Worldview and the U.S. Constitution, Part 1

By Dr. Paul T. Criss

In honor of Constitution Day, September 17, 2018, I thought it would be appropriate to write about the worldview from which the Constitution was written. There are a whole bunch of people out there that think the United States Constitution has nothing to do with God. There is even a book out there used in law schools called The Godless Constitution where a couple of professors from Cornell say that we have a secular government governed by a secular document. Modernism is at the root of the problem because it separates history from its context. What was the context of the writing of the Constitution? What did the founders intend by what they wrote? These are the questions we should be asking as we interpret and apply the Constitution. Those who penned the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights did so from a Christian Perspective. There are seven reasons why the Constitution is not a godless document, but rather stems from the Christian worldview.

The first reason the Constitution stems from a Christian worldview is found in Article 7. It is the clause that incorporates the Declaration of Independence into the Constitution. The Declaration of Independence acknowledges God four times, but opponents say that we are not under the Declaration, we are under the Constitution. Eleven years later, the framers left God completely out. Really? That makes the mistake that the two documents were meant to be separated. The Founders intended that the two documents were irrevocably intertwined; they go together. Samuel Adams said, “Before the formation of the Constitution, the Declaration of independence was received and ratified by all states in the union, and it has never been disannulled.” The Declaration has never gone out of force. It was completed before the Constitution and it is a key document. Even the early U.S. Supreme court said, “The Constitution is but the body and letter of which the Declaration is the thought and the spirit…it is always safe to read the letter of the Constitution in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.” They could not be separated.

The Constitution cannot be understood without the Declaration. John Quincy Adams said, “The Declaration of Independence was the platform from which the Constitution of the United States had been erected. The principles proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence were embodied in the Constitution of the United States.” The foundation cannot be pulled out from under the structure of the Constitution. Consider the Constitution and Declaration as you would the documents needed to call a corporation into existence. Two papers must be created and filed: the first is the Articles of Incorporation; the document that calls the corporation into existence – the reason the corporation is to exist. The second document that must be filed is the Bylaws – this is how the corporation will operate under the Articles of Incorporation. So the Articles of Incorporation provide the purpose and the Bylaws provide the practice; the “what/why” and then the “how.” The Bylaws are never allowed to violate the Articles of Incorporation. The way you operate the company cannot violate the reason it was called into existence. This is why the Declaration and Constitution cannot be separated. The Constitution cannot exist without the Declaration.

The Supreme Court pointed out that you cannot understand the Constitution without the Declaration. They said that if you want to understand the intent of something in the Constitution, then “determine the evil which was intended to be remedied.” If you want to understand why the Second Amendment was added, then determine the evil or abuse they meant to prevent.  They wrote this material down to ensure that these abuses never happen in America. Within that framework, look at the articles in the Constitution. If you go to Article 1, Section 5, Paragraph 4: “neither house during the session of Congress shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days to any other place in which the two houses shall be sitting.” Why? Go back to the Declaration and look in the 27 grievances, where they pointed out 27 abuses that Great Britain enforced upon the thirteen colonies. Grievance four in the Declaration discusses how the King would adjourn one body of Congress for months or move their meeting location away from needed resources to frustrate their progress when they were proposing something against his will. This was designed to prevent a specific problem going on at the time. Article 1, Section 4, Paragraph 2: “Congress shall assemble at least once a year and such a meeting shall be on the first Monday in December unless they shall by law appoint a different day.” Why? It is the solution to grievance five in the Declaration. Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 4 says “the purpose is to establish as uniform rule of naturalization and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcy throughout the United States.” Why? This is the solution to grievance seven in the Declaration. The grievances stated in the Declaration directly correlate to what is stated in the Constitution; therefore, the two documents cannot be separated. It is the only way to understand the two documents.

For the same reason Article Seven, the last line of the Constitution, says, “done in convention by the unanimous consent of the states present the seventeenth day of September in the Year of Our Lord, one-thousand seven hundred and eighty seven.” But then there is another clause: “and of the independence of the United States of America the twelfth.” Why did they date the Constitution back to the Declaration? They did not believe they had created a new document, they were expressing that it was an extension of the Declaration from 1776. To this day, Constitutional Acts signed by the President do not date back to 1787, rather they date back to the Declaration and 1776. That is why it cannot be separated and the first reason we can know it stems from a Christian worldview. Article Seven connects the Constitution to the Declaration; the Declaration acknowledges God four times and sets forth the value system under which America is to operate which is “the law of nature and of nature’s God” – natural law and the Scriptures.

The second reason the Constitution stems from a Christian worldview is the source of its ideas. The Constitution contains ideas that had never before been set forth in a previous government’s documents. A full republic with checks and balances – a marvel among humankind. Where did they get these ideas? Political science professors at the University of Houston collected representative writings out of the founding era (1760-1805) and analyzed who they quoted to find out where they got their ideas. They collected fifteen thousand writings and identified 3,154 direct quotes of the founders; it took them ten years, but they took every quote back to its original source and discovered the top one hundred sources. They published their findings in a book called The Origins of American Constitutionalism. Out of all the writings that were out there – Rousseau, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Hume, Hobbes – the one that was quoted more than any other was Baron Charles Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws at 8.3% of the quotations. The next quoted source was Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law at 7.9%. The third most cited individual is John Locke’s Two Treatise’s of Government at 2.9%. These are the top three cited individuals, but the number one source cited was the Bible at 34%. That is a good indication that they did not think this was a secular document because this was their primary source. Article 1, Section 8 about immigration compares with Leviticus 19:34. Article 2, Section 1 says the President has to be a natural-born citizen from Deuteronomy 17:15 which says the head of your nation has to be born from among you. Article 3, Section 3 deals with witness for capital punishment for treason, but two people must testify to it in open court; this compares with Deuteronomy 17:6 says you cannot be put to death unless it is established in the mouth of two to three witnesses. Article 3, Section 3 prohibits bills of attainder; Ezekiel 18:20 prohibits these in the Scripture. You can see the Bible throughout the Constitution, but because secularists never read the Bible, they are blind to these connections.

More reasons to come…

Recommended Resources used in this blog: GOD and the Constitution and Original Intent by David Barton. www.wallbuilders.com

Ignition Moments

by Dr. Paul T. Criss, Dean – Memphis/DeSoto

Students are coming to your classroom each night internally asking a lot of questions. Questions like: What is important for me? What are my immediate needs? What will be my future needs? Which call do I answer (passion)? How do I do good (purpose)? How do I engage in personal development? What is the right trajectory for me? What are my personal goals?

One of the ways we can begin to address their questions is to develop a strong culture on our campuses. A Harvard Study discovered that building a strong culture increases success by 765 percent over a ten year period. Daniel Coyle in The Culture Code stated, “Real power of the interaction is located in two-way emotional signaling. It creates an atmosphere of connections that surrounds the conversations.” Dr. Rick Upchurch sums this idea up in stating “all of life boils down to relationships.” To accomplish these connections and conversations, we have to be intentional. We have to allow students to become emotionally invested to spark a personal desire to change habits.

Dr. Mark Kay Park illustrated this with an account of what became the Community Led Total Sanitation Program in Bangladesh. The leaders had provided villages with new stainless latrines, but the inhabitants were not using them. CLTS realized that they need to spark a desire in the culture to change habits. The needed what they called an “ignition moment” to allow the community to take responsibility. To accomplish this they needed every member of the community to become emotionally invested in the goal. The send sent facilitators into each of the villages who had members of the community draw a map on the dirt ground. They then had them use yellow chalk dust to mark on the map the communal defecation area. They asked them where they defecated when it was inconvenient to go to the communal area, when they could not make it to the area, or when they were simply ill. Eventually the entire map was covered with yellow dust. They asked the villagers if they had ever seen flies in the communal area and if flies had ever landed on their food. They helped them to make the connection between flies spreading disease and members of the community contracting disease. The villagers emotional response to being the ones responsible for the spreading of disease in the community motivated them to follow sanitary procedures and utilized the latrines. It was their “ignition moment” to work for change. No new information was presented, yet it changed their behavior because it connected to their emotions.

The same idea can help our students persevere to the end. What will their “ignition moment” be? How will you introduce it to them? We need to think about problems that no one want to discuss and to help others see the truth. That “ignition moment” may not only the change the trajectory of their life and career, it may also change their family’s legacy. The most powerful change happens when our students discover the truth for themselves. Magical moments like these can change a student’s personal perspective.

To provide these “peak” – “ignition” – “magical moments,” we will need to cultivate a strong culture in our classrooms. Three basic actions that we can take to cultivate this kind of culture are to build safety, share vulnerability, and establish purpose. A safe community allows academic freedom to discuss these hard issues balanced by the Christian Worldview and this will generate bonds of belonging. Those who share vulnerability bump up performance by 24% and this explains how the habits of mutual risk together drive trusting cooperation. Finally, establishing purpose within the classroom drives everyone to go in the same direction together. This can be engendered in the classroom by encapsulating purpose into stories that drive shared values and shared goals. It is appropriate to be motivational in the classroom and to share inspirational stories. Be encouraging.

Dr. Park closed the 2018 CAHEA Conference with two insightful Illustrations. The first was about Dr. Alfred Tomatis who developed the Tomatis Method. He was an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor whose theory stated that many vocal problems were really hearing problems. An opera singer came to him who had lost their voice. He did not believe that it was a vocal cord issue. He performed a different kind of check-up and discovered that inside the opera singer’s skull, the ears were experiencing 140 decibel sound – louder than a military fighter jet – and that the singer was being deafened by his own voice. He theorized on the reason for selective deafness and selective muteness – the voice can only produce what the ear can hear.

The second illustration was about Krakatoa – a volcano that erupted in the Indonesian Island Arc. In 1883, rancher in Australia heard the boom some 2800 miles away. The volcanic island erupted at 310 decibels and caused 120 feet tall tidal waves. It was felt around the world, even in the opposite point of the world, Colombia, South America.

From these two illustrations, we can derive a few points of reflection for those of us teaching in the adult studies classroom. First, do we experience a spiritual Tomatis Effect – are we deafened by our own voice? Or is God’s voice the loudest in our life? Are we passing on what we hear from Him? I have always been fascinated by the account of Elijah after his personal “pity” party. The account states, The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.” (1 Kings 12:11-12, New International Version) The ambient sound at your local Starbucks is 70 decibels (ambient sound makes your creative juices flow), but a whisper is 15 decibels. I think the reason God whispers is because it causes us to lean in and be close to Him. We need this proximity to hear and understand the word He would have us share with our students. The second from Krakatoa is to be sensitive to what God is igniting in the hearts of your students that may one day be felt around the world. What does God want to share through you that will spark that “ignition moment?”

Peak Moments

by Dr. Paul T. Criss, Dean – Memphis/DeSoto

Coming back from the Christian Adult Higher Education Association Conference 2018, I have been reflecting on several ideas that were presented that I would like to unpack over a couple articles.

The plenary speaker, Dr. Mary Kay Park, Executive Managing Director of the Far East Broadcasting Company – Korea in Los Angeles, presented several intriguing ideas. The one that greatly intrigued me personally was this statement: “Currently there is a ‘boundary-less-ness’ in careers. The shape of the career has changed – today’s young people will change employers twelve to fifteen times and careers nine to eleven times. We are not preparing students for a single job market, we are preparing them for twelve to fifteen employer scenarios and nine to eleven career scenarios.”

That provoked some reflection on how our classrooms will likely change. In addition to focusing on the content of the course, the faculty member must also focus on all of the intangibles that need to be brought to bear on student learning. Not only the typical hard and soft skill development, but also teaching and developing flexibility, resilience, and grit/perseverance. These essential skills are needed for the diverse future that may lie ahead.

Dr. Park continued to explain three areas that disrupt a student’s pathway to success. The first is situational barriers – things like time limit and cost. The second is institutional barriers – policies and procedures that may discourage or exclude students. The third area is dispositional barriers – personal perception, attitude, and support. As faculty, we may not be able to address the first and second barriers, but we certainly can address the third. But how? How do you help improve a student’s perception of themselves,  of Belhaven, and of the future that God has in store?

Disneyland and Disneyworld conducted a study by asking attendees to rate their experience throughout their day at their amusement park. On a scale of 1-10 how good is the experience at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., noon, and throughout the day. The average experience was 8.6. How would one look back at that a few months later? Would you remember? Everyone remembers the higher scores. WE only remember the peaks and then we average the peaks. What are students remembering from their experience in your classroom? What are they sharing at dinner parties? With current Belhaven Students? With potential Belhaven students? How is that an anchor point for them as they maneuver through their career journey?

Dr. Park suggested focusing on the “power of moments” – teachable moments – peak moments that will be remembered. How do you create more peak moments in your classroom? Perhaps find ways to embed God’s truth into practical life application. Share personal and professional experiences that have shaped you. Bring into the forefront those experiences that changed the trajectory of your career. Moments that made you more resilient, flexible, and gritty. Students in Tennessee attest that the number one reason they persisted in their studies is that they had a meaningful moment with a faculty member outside of the classroom. Be available in the hallway, prior to class, or at a student appreciation event. Be intentional about learning each of your students’ name. Find something about each student to which you can relate – it will help you remember them. Create those peak moments in your classroom and improve the trajectory of your students’ lives.

Advice for Teachers: Dare to Be Strict – repost

I’m passing this article on because I think there is some good information here for us.  This is always like walking a tightrope and yet if we don’t address it, the educational quality for our students suffer.  RLU

Joseph W. Trefzger PhD

For two decades I have taught 150- to 200-student sections of introductory financial management to majors in all business programs, plus business minors from diverse fields. Although the course has its fans—some even change their majors to finance each semester—many students find the material daunting, become distracted, and behave in ways that impede the learning of others along with their own. Distractions always have lurked in college classrooms; texters and Web surfers are merely the note passers and campus newspaper readers of the digital age.

READ MORE

Business Program Review

Dr. Chip Mason presented the annual outcomes report for the Business Programs at Belhaven University today in a webinar format. In that presentation he shared the basic structure of each of the business programs and how they are evaluated/assessed.  Belhaven’s business programs are accredited through the International Accreditation Council of Business Education (IACBE).  The key learning outcomes for all the business programs are:

  • Recognize/Solve Problems
  • Integrate Theory/Practice in Strategic Analysis
  • Master quantitative methods in analysis of business situations
  • Communicate clearly both orally and in writing
  • Work effectively with teams on various projects
  • Identify and analyze ethical obligations and responsibilities of business within the context of a Christian world view

Our programs are:

  • MBA: 36 credit hours, requires a 3.0GPA and no more than 2 ‘C’ grades: Assessment: Passing score on Comp exam
  • MSL: 36 credit hours, requires a 3.0GPA and no more than 2 ‘C’ grades: Assessment: Leadership development project
  • MPA: 36 credit hours, requires a 3.0GPA and no more than 2 ‘C’ grades: Assessment: Combination of program evaluation and tests
  • BBA: 48 credit hour business core: Assessment: Peregrine Tests & Capsim
  • BSM: 45 credit hour business core: Assessment: Capsim, Synthesis Paper, & Peregrine Samples

Dr. Mason then went over the results of the assessments for each of the business programs. He discussed course modifications and strategies for improving the scores.  Overall he expressed satisfaction with the programs in general, although he noted a few areas which need attention, specifically related to quantitative courses in the BBA and MBA programs.

Sadly, the recording of the webinar stopped after 8 minutes so I cannot link it here.  If you have any questions related to the webinar or specific assessments, please contact Dr. Mason.

 

 

 

Guiding Your Course

The course you are teaching was not created out of a Big Bang. Nor does it randomly exist without purpose. It was conceived as a collection of knowledge and competencies which fit into a larger picture. The larger picture we call a degree, or perhaps a concentration. When a course is well designed it fits into that larger picture as a piece fits into a puzzle, revealing and contributing to the fuller understanding of the knowledge which that degree/concentration represents.

The connection of the course you are teaching to the larger whole can be found in the Student Learning Outcomes, which can be found at the beginning of your module.  Sometimes they are called Learning Objectives or Competencies. They usually vary in number from 3 to 12, with 4-6 being the ideal. I have no doubt that you have read through them when you first looked over the module. The question I have, is: to what extent do those outcomes/objectives/competencies guide your instruction?

You might say, especially in the online course, that everything is so prescribed that there is little you can do that would impact the achievement of the outcomes/objectives/competencies anyway. Therefore, you might easily gloss over them as more academic rhetoric that is simply part of the course module which has no real bearing on the REAL job of teaching.

This, of course, is absolutely wrong. It is only as the outcomes/objectives/competencies for the course are achieved through student learning that the course can be considered a success.  While an effort has been made to align those competencies with the assignments, quizzes, and grades, the true measure of success, for you and the student, is whether they have indeed been met.

How to do that in a curriculum which is relatively “fixed?”

  1. Make sure YOU know the outcomes/objectives/competencies for the course.
  2. Through discussions in class and online tie the content back to the objectives.
  3. Through announcements online and in post-class email summaries, reflect on the connection of them to the work the student has done in the previous week, or the work which will be addressed in the coming week.
  4. Actively evaluate the achievement of the objectives both at the mid-point of the course and the end through discussions and any other ways you can.

Using these outcomes/objectives/competencies in an ACTIVE teaching pedagogy will make you a better teacher.  It will also better equip your students for success as they leave your course and move on to other courses.

Context: A Required Fundamental for Hermeneutics and Analysis

by Jon Pirtle, Full-Time Instructor, Atlanta

Recently I was invited to speak at a local church gathering on the biblical worldview with regard to some hot button issues in our culture. That’s a pretty common request, so I did not expect anything unusual to come of it. Boy, was I going to be surprised. About forty adults, forty to eighty-year-olds, assembled monthly to discuss current events. I knew several people in the class on a casual level. We shared a passion for history, so I was excited about being with them in their current events class. The evening arrived. I entered the church, greeted folks, engaged in small talk, and then the class leader introduced me and asked me to pray. After that, we distributed printed agendas so the class would have a road map of topics for the evening’s discussion.

We were in a political season in GA. The primary elections for governor and other state offices had been held just days before. Arguably, like much of our nation, the class divided when it came to social issues and politics. The atmosphere had been cordial, respectful, and dignified when I entered. But when the topics of politicians’ stances with regard to illegal immigration, special “rights” for the LGBTQ demographic, liberation theology, and “social justice” engagement came up, the atmosphere changed. Some of the men’s voices grew louder. I watched three of the women’s faces grimace. Several wives squeezed their husbands’ hands as if to say, “Patience.” I was hearing Solomon’s admonition in my mind (ESV): “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29). In short, I sensed things were going south … quickly, and I had not even spoken yet. What was I going to do?

Then something happened that made me realize I had an opportunity to hopefully bring calm to the room and draw the focus to the biblical worldview. One man cleared his throat and said loudly enough we were all sure to hear, “You know, it’s not our place to judge! Jesus told us to ‘Judge not, that you be not judged.’” He then sat back in his chair as if he’d settled every issue for the night.

What shocked me was this: the class as a whole seemed knocked off their positions due to one man’s quotation from part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Suddenly I felt like Esther. Was I here for such a time as this? I believe I was, so I raised my hand. The class leader looked at me and said, “Jon, you have something?” “Yes, I do. May I ask a few questions and then just make a comment or two?” I asked. “Sure,” he said.

“I heard someone say that we are not to judge. Is that right?” I asked.

“Yes,” came a wave of affirmations from the class.

“Do you know what the Lord says in the following verses?”

Silence filled the room.

“Jesus tells his followers to not throw pearls before pigs. Isn’t he judging? Isn’t he making distinctions? He called some people pigs—foul animals to his first-century Jewish audience.”

Again, silence.

“Furthermore, Jesus tells us in that same sermon to not condemn sanctimoniously but to remove the logs from our own eyes. Does that not require us to judge, to discern, our own shortcomings? Isn’t judgment involved there?” I pressed.

I knew I might make some enemies by drawing them to the text, but the text of Scripture must be interpreted correctly. Otherwise, all sorts of misapplications can occur with supposedly biblical grounds. Proper context is key.

This is the way I ended, and for the remainder of class I just listened.

“Folks, may I suggest something to you? You are in a current events class. You spent half an hour excoriating politicians with whom you disagreed. Some of you condemned the president for wanting American sovereignty and laboring to build a wall to protect legal American citizens; others of you recognized that social justice is encroaching, and even overtaking, some mainline Protestant denominations. You condemned your political and theological enemies, and you lauded those with whom you agree. How can you misapply Jesus’ words about judging? Your whole class is designed to have you think biblically—to judge, to discern, what God would have you think and do. Does that make sense?”

I share this story from my own life only to reiterate what we need to do with our own writing and when we teach writing to Belhaven students. When we quote Scripture, context is key. Explaining and understanding the whole and proper context of a verse/passage/book, etc. of Scripture is essential in our vocation as educators and Christians. When Paul neared the end of his life, and was about to be executed for his Christian witness, he wrote to Timothy crucial words for all of us, too, to heed: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Challenges for Adult Education as Learning Trends Change

by Dr. Ken Elliott, Dean Belhaven Jackson/Madison

Adult education is on the forefront of changes in the culture. Mary Kay Park (Executive Managing Director for the Far East Broadcasting Company—Korea in Los Angeles), the main speaker for the annual conference for the Christian Adult Higher Education Association, summarized the greatest challenges facing adult education.  Her background in intercultural studies brought a clearer understanding of these challenges we face in adult education and the intercultural context of our enterprise.

In her first session, she asked what drives changes in learning trends.  Socioeconomic factors, she said, are top of the list.  We can expect an increased cost of higher education.  With this said we need to think about how adult education fits with the current job market.  Students want to see an immediate value to their education.  In addition, many students are divorced parents looking for ways to improve their economic level.

The second factor to consider is “the disillusionment of value.”  The rules for working with current bureaucracies and for education keep changing and creates disillusionment on the part of adult learners.  The new crop of prospective students are not driven by “passion” as in previous generations, but rather they are purpose driven.  Long drawn out education is often not primary for them.  The tendency is pleasure first and education later, or travel first and learn later.  This is the Instagram generation.

Also, challenges will persist, she says.    Prospective students want to know how education helps them now.  Many adults are working full time and trying to raise a child. This creates challenges for higher education programs in marketing, recruitment, and enrollment.  The new generation wants it now – the “no child left behind” generation, the group that was taught to pass the test, lacks critical thinking skills, and wants to rather know what is needed specifically for the test.

The question that most students are asking internally is: What is more important to me (and my family)?  They are conflicted between immediate needs as opposed to future needs.  It will be up to educators, to help prospective students to see the value and purpose of their education.  This will also mean that we will have to help these prospective students to understand the need to change their habits and see the great value in education.

How to Navigate the New Norms for Adult Education

by Ron Pirtle, Dean – Belhaven Chattanooga/Dalton

I had the privilege of attending the 2018 Christian Adult Higher Education Association (CAHEA) conference recently. While there were a number of really good sessions, one particularly stood out to me as it related to what we have all seen as the potential new norms for adult education. Dr. Claudia Dempsey reminded us of the traditional attitude toward professors, which is the “Sage on the Stage” and was the standard until the beginning of what we know as the “Computer Age.” Dempsey feels that once the internet became accessible for all, “higher education became a fluid, real-time, globally-accessible, inquiry-based exchange” and if we give careful thought to that statement, I believe we would all have to agree that it is rooted in fact.

Some statistics that Dempsey shared concerning, what she referred to as, the “Brave New World,” are:

  • Distance education has now surpassed six million students
  • The student demographics in higher education are now 73% non-traditional
  • We know have consumer students – meaning that higher education is evolving into a customer service industry. (“How can I serve you” vs. “Come meet our standards”)

While the last statement is difficult for most of us to swallow, I believe many of us would concede that this is the attitude we see displayed by more than one of our students. Dempsey actually refers to this generation as the “Starbucks Generation.” She expounded on this designation by pointing out that our students, generally speaking, are no longer just a coffee generation, but a venti, non-fat, salted caramel mocha frappuccino generation. When we shift our thinking to understand that description is representative of students that we are going to be teaching soon, our attitude towards how we present information to our students must be adjusted. The traditional “lecture” format is not what our students are looking for as they participate in their education.

Dempsey addresses this attitude by referring to what Mats Alvesson calls “The Triumph of Emptiness.” She reveals that Alvesson believes that our pursuit of marketability, superficial shine and branding is allowing us to succeed at the triumph of emptiness. Because of this emptiness, Dempsey fears education might experience the assembly-line mass production that has been avoided for years. Should that happen, she feels it could result in several things for professors:

  • Loss of job security
  • Loss of voice
  • Increased academic work/demands
  • Isolation – smaller/long-distance teams
  • Perpetual upgrades in learning systems, which result in bugs/glitches
  • The need for supplemental income

If we just accepted that this might become the reality experienced in higher education, the pursuit of pouring into our students’ lives would be futile. I, for one, am very thankful that we work at an institution where we do not pursue an assembly-line mass production of graduates.

While the attitude presented by Alvesson could become a reality, students that sit in our classes do not experience the triumph of emptiness. I believe that is based on our pursuit of integrating the Christian worldview into all of our classes, along with what Dempsey referred to as cultivating a climate of C.A.R.E: Compassion/Affirmation/Respect/Encouragement. It is my joy to work with instructors who are committed to investing in the creativity, productivity, and resilience of our students, all while enabling them to deepen their understanding of Christ and his place in their daily life.  So, for those of you who have picked up the mantle of teaching, never underestimate your ability to overcome and help our students overcome the triumph of emptiness!