Priorities: Innovation and Change
Running through all our priorities is a commitment to innovation and change. Bringing Theory to Practice was launched out of a concern that higher education had lost touch with its own purposes and values. Academic institutions and the student experience were becoming fragmented and transactional. Repairing a broken ideal of transformative learning meant transforming higher education itself.
From the start, BT2P has aimed to catalyze campus innovation. We support experimental curricula that broke out of disciplinary silos; pedagogies that blended experiential learning, real-world problem solving, and critical reflection; the launch of programs that bridged academic and co-curricular experiences; the development of centers that melded liberal learning with community engagement. Such grant making is also a strategy for leveraging broader change. BT2P has supported projects that align academics, student life, and administrative leadership in “campus cultures of change,” and we have curated and amplified campus- and program-level innovation through convening and publications.
In recent years, BT2P’s change strategy has evolved. We are now focused less on campus-by-campus innovation than on institutional collaboration. The unit of change in higher education, we’ve come to believe, is not the stand-alone campus, but the innovative network. In our collaboratories and multi-institutional grants, we seek to bring together communities of practice that can co-create, distill, and disseminate new models of education. What began as a grantees’ network is evolving, we hope, into a movement of change-makers.
Our projects database is replete with projects of curricular and pedagogical innovation, program design, and institutional change strategies. Here are several examples.
- Lorain County Community College and Oberlin College created the 4-D Liberal Arts Initiative, a partnership between LCCC’s fabrication laboratory and Oberlin’s design thinking studio.
- Eight colleges and universities in the Albany Capital region used a Multi-Institutional Innovation grant to formalize a regional community engagement council, instituting faculty development institutes, faculty mentors, and course development fellowships.
- Bennington College’s Center for the Advancement of Public Action piloted a series of yearlong, immersive, multi-credit courses for first-year students, each of them centered on studying and taking action on a single, large wicked problem.
- Virginia Commonwealth University launched the THRIVE living-learning community, which melds a social focus on well-being practice with a required course and research opportunities on the science of well-being, health, and happiness.
BT2P has also published significant work on the dynamics and strategies of change in higher education. Here are some key articles and essays.
- David Scobey, “How Does Change Actually Happen in Higher Education?” (AAC&U News, 2018)
- Adrianna J. Kezar and Jill N. Reich, “Fostering Faculty Leadership for Sustainable Change in the Academy” (Transforming Undergraduate Education, 2011)
- Kenneth R. Bain and Randall J. Bass, “Threshold Concepts of Teaching and Learning that Transform Faculty Practice (and the Limits of Individual Change)” (Transforming Undergraduate Education, 2011)
- Eric Lister, M.D., “Institutional Tranformation in the Service of Well-Being: A Cross-Cultural Perspective” (Well-Being and Higher Education, 2015)