Monday, January 9

Classes Resume

Tuesday, January 10

11:30 - 11:50 AM - Tuesday Reflection - Dorothy Williams '12
Ascension Chapel, 2nd floor, Founders Hall

4:30 - 5:30 PM - Ekklesia Study Group
Old Main 121

Wednesday, January 11

12:00 - 12:50 PM - Faculty, Staff & Administrators' Bible Study: Topic for This Week: "Burger King Mom": Being Poor in America
New Bible Study Series: "Justice for the Poor" featuring a 10-minute DVD introduction to each of the six sessions by Jim Wallis, editor-in-chief of Sojourners Magazine."
Bring your lunch and a Bible
Chicago Room, College Center 

8:00 PM - Faculty Jazz Concert - The Odd Bar Trio
James Dreier, Steve Grismore and Brent Sandy will perform
Free admission
Ensemble Room, Bergendoff Hall

Thursday, January 12

10:30 - 11:20 AM - Convocation: Anne Fausto-Sterling: "How Do Naked Newborns Become Boys or Girls?"
Centennial Hall

11:00 - 11:30 AM - Pepsico 101 Lunch and Learn
Don Umland will provide a tour of Pepsico, demonstrations of equipment, information on family passes, and opportunities to get involved in upcomign classes/training programs
Pepsico Building

12:00 - 12:30 PM - Pepsico 101 Lunch and Learn
Don Umland will provide a tour of Pepsico, demonstrations of equipment, information on family passes, and opportunities to get involved in upcomign classes/training programs
Pepsico Building

11:30 AM - 12:15 PM - Faculty Senate Meeting CANCELLED
ence 102

2:30 - 3:30 PM - Complex Networks: Applications and Algorithms
Bruce Rogers will speak on the mathematical theory of networks. For example, how does Google decide which websites to recommend based on your search terms? How do proteins regulate the production of enzymes in your cells? Are there really six degrees of Kevin Bacon?
Free admission. Light refreshments will be served
Olin 202

Friday, January 13

4:00 PM - Friday Conversation: Laura Ford, Steve Gottcent and Darrin Good:  "Wellness"
3:30 PM - Refreshments
Wilson Center

Saturday, January 14

9:00 AM - 12:30 PM - Academic Departmental Open House & Scholarship Competition

6:00 - 8:00 PM - Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Free and open to the public
Centennial Hall

8:00 PM - Honors Recital
This annual recital presented by honors scholarshp recipients will offer a diverse array of performances and repertoire. The performers will each present a short piece
Free admission
Wallenberg Hall, Denkmann Building

Sunday, January 15

Volume 9, Issue 17 - January 9, 2012

Delicious Ambiguity

Welcome back! During the break I hope you were able to enjoy some time with loved ones and (or) recharge your intellectual batteries. I will admit that I spent part of the break embracing my inner geek, reading about the amazing improvements in Finland's student achievement scores since they instituted a new national education policy in the 1970s. Previously, Finland had been decidedly average. Today, their scores are consistently among the best in the world - particularly in reading and science. As a result, the U.S. and the U.K. - countries with substantially lower scores - are very interested in finding out what might be driving this educational success story.

The point of my column this week isn't to delve into the details of Finland's success, but rather to consider one aspect of Finland's approach that I think is particularly applicable to our current conversation about educational outcomes and improved student learning. So here are a few links if you are interested in reading more about Finland educational success or about the exam that is used to measure student achievement. Instead.

"Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted."

If you've already read the Atlantic Monthly article I hyperlinked above, you know that this statement is attributed to Pasi Sahlberg, an individual deeply involved in Finland's educational transformation. The principle to which he refers asserts that unless an educational endeavor is intentionally designed to produce a specific outcome, it is difficult to argue that gains on that outcome are entirely attributable to the educational endeavor in question. However, as society has increasingly demanded that education prove its worth, it is deceptively easy to start by testing for an educational effect without ever asking whether the experience is really designed to best produce it. To make matters worse, then we mandate improvement without addressing the systematic dysfunction that created the problem in the first place.

My sense of Augustana's evolution regarding student learning outcomes is that we are in the midst of a process to make explicit what we have long valued implicitly. We are trying to be clearer about what we want our students to learn, be more transparent about those efforts, and maximize the educational quality we provide. In this context, Sahlberg's comment on accountability and responsibility struck me in two ways . . .

First, the process of identifying outcomes and designing an educational program to meet those outcomes requires us to take full responsibility for the design of the program we are delivering. When something is repeatedly greater than the sum of its parts, it isn't just a happy accident. Designing a successful educational program is more than just making pieces fit together - it's constructing the pieces so that they fit together.

Second, just because an outcome idea sounds like it might be valid doesn't make it so. But in the absence of anything else, accountability measures that mean very little can all too easily become drivers of institutional policy - sometimes to the detriment of student learning. However, the inverse can also be true. An institution that takes full responsibility for the design of its educational programs and the system within which they exist will likely far exceed typical accountability standards because such an institution can make coherent, empirically-grounded, and compelling arguments for why it does what it does; arguments that quickly evaporate when a pre-packaged accountability measure is hurriedly slapped onto the back end of an educational process.

So I'd like to close by suggesting that we consider the statement quoted above in this way: If we take explicit responsibility for student learning and the design of the educational programs we provide, demonstrating our accountability - to our students or our accreditors - will be relatively easy by comparison.