January 8, 2013...9:34 am

Disrupting Ourselves: the Problem of Learning in Higher Education (Educause Review)

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Disrupting Ourselves: the Problem of Learning in Higher Education, published in March/April 2012 issue of EDUCAUSE REVIEW

 Our understanding of learning has expanded at a rate that has far outpaced our conceptions of teaching. A growing appreciation for the porous boundaries between the classroom and life experience, along with the power of social learning, authentic audiences, and integrative contexts, has created not only promising changes in learning but also disruptive moments in teaching.

By “disruptive moments,” I’m not referring to students on Facebook in classrooms. I mean “disruption” in the way Clayton Christensen uses the term. Christensen coined the phrase disruptive innovation to refer to a process “by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves ‘up market,’ eventually displacing established competitors.”1 By using the phrase “disrupting ourselves” in this article’s title, I am asserting that one key source of disruption in higher education is coming not from the outside but from our own practices, from the growing body of experiential modes of learning, moving from margin to center, and proving to be critical and powerful in the overall quality and meaning of the undergraduate experience. As a result, at colleges and universities we are running headlong into our own structures, into the way we do business.

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