LOs in Higher Ed LO19967

Fred Nickols (nickols@worldnet.att.net)
Sun, 22 Nov 1998 17:04:37 -0500

Responding to Dr. Steve Eskow in LO19954 and LO19947 --

>Students of organization like Drucker see it [the college
>organization] as the kind of decentering and decentralizing
>of the large organization, and the movement of power from
>central administration to the knowledge workiers who have
>actual, rather than nominal, power, as a corporate model of
>the future.

>What really would disappoint the critics if they thought
>about it is that the colleges have the kind of decentralist
>organizational model that the learning org theorists propose--
>and the model has resulted in conservatism and traditionalism
>rather than the "transformations" the org theorists thought
>would occur.

>Critics have long satirized the "anarchy" of the college
>organization, calling it, for example "a collection of
>fiefdoms united by a common parking lot."

What Dr. Steve is pointing to here is that the tension, conflict, and
creativity that is supposed to result from diversity doesn't. Instead, it
leads to fragmentation, the "fiefdoms" referred to above. This is true
not just of the college organization but of any divisionalized structure.
Yugoslavia, once held together by Josip Broz Tito, is a good example of
the illusion of unification. Some might argue that the same is true of
the former USSR. What is different, I believe, about the college
organization and the two political entities just mentioned is that force
is unavailable for unification purposes in the case of the college
organization (at least raw, naked, military power doesn't seem to be an
option, although more subtle forms of coercion are always in play).

Thus, in the last analysis, the problem in the college organization (or in
any educational institution for that matter) is quite similar to that
encountered in just about all organizations at one time or another:

If you think about an educational institution (and I don't much care if
you pick K-12, higher ed, or post-grad), the basic structure of the system
has four major elements: goals or intended outcomes, processes, content,
and actual outcomes.

Now the alignment among all four of these elements ranges from slim to
none. Educational processes, for example, are sometimes in the hands of
curriculum designers and sometimes in the hands of individual teachers.
Educational content is often up for grabs as well. Intended outcomes
depend on whom you ask. Educators don't agree among themselves, and
looking for consensus among educators, parents, students, the business
community, governmental agencies, and even the textbook publishers is
nonexistent. Actual outcomes are, then, highly variable. There is some
alignment between textbooks and tests (thanks to the publishing firms who
publish both), but, generally speaking, there is precious little alignment
between the content of education, its processes, and its intended and
actual outcomes.

What is clear is that actual outcomes can be determined. Sooner or later,
someone will figure this out and act on it to bring about the necessary
alignment. Until then, I believe Dr. Eskow's capsule summary is a good
description and likely to stand for some time.



Fred Nickols Distance Consulting http://home.att.net/~nickols/distance.htm nickols@worldnet.att.net (609) 490-0095

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