Is your university a ‘Darwinista’ ‘Fatalista’ or ‘Retentioneering’ institution?
After 50 years in the Higher Ed. Biz (as Tom Lehrer would call it) I’ve decided that universities fall into three groups. There’s the:
‘Darwinista’ Group. Staff in the Darwinista Group of universities believe that students drop out because they’re not intelligent enough, unmotivated or lazy. They see their role as principally maintaining academic standards. Their typical comment – “We’re here to weed out the unfit” In Professor Carole Dweck’s ‘Theory of Self’ they might be ‘Entity Theorists’ – they believe that intelligence is a fixed quantity and can’t be changed.
Then there’s the:
‘Fatalista’ Group. Staff in the Fatalista Group of universities believe that students drop out for reasons beyond their control. They see their role as to teach the best they can, but it’s then up to the students. Their typical comment – “We must give students a good learning experience”. When I hear that phrase I do occasionally mutter to myself that ‘the best learning experience you can give students is to pass their course’.
Because I like to kid myself that I’m a ‘Retentioneer’. Retentioneers believe that students most often fail because of loss of learning motivation due to lack of individual proactive support. Their typical comment – “We should help students be as successful as they can be”. In Professor Dweck’s theory Retentioneers might be ‘Incremental’ theorists – they believe that intelligence is malleable and can be changed by effort.
So – Darwinista, Fatalista or Retentioneer? Obviously all teachers need to have Darwinista tendencies – who would want to be operated on by a brain surgeon who’d not reached their institution’s standards? And most teachers are Fatalistas to the extent that they would like to teach as well as they can. But we need to remember that, as someone once said, “No teacher can be certain that their teaching will cause a learner to learn”. Unless we are proactive in reaching out to individual students to keep their learning motivation switched on, students will continue to drop out unnecessarily, with damage to themselves, their institutions and society as a whole. In other words we all need to have a good ‘retentioneering’ streak.
You can check whether yours is predominantly a Darwinista, Fatalista or Retentioneering institution by going to www.ormondsimpson.com/page4.htm and taking the test.