At its heart, Carnegie has always been an institution whose thinking and actions have been organized around teaching and those who teach. Our work today continues that tradition, deeply involving faculty and others in the co-creation by teams from 30 colleges on two new pathways to help students succeed in developmental mathematics.
Each president of the Foundation since its founding more than a century ago has built on its distinguished traditions and introduced new initiatives and new visions. From the first president, Henry Pritchett, the Foundation inherited its identity as a venerable leadership organization dedicated to improving the quality of education through careful studies and strategic communications. From Abraham Flexner and his many successors, the Foundation could build on a legacy of critical research on the quality of education. From John Gardner, the Foundation inherited a commitment to the centrality of moral leadership as key features of a democratic society, and thus of its educational systems. From Ernest Boyer, the Foundation drew upon key insights regarding the need to expand our notions of scholarship to include, in particular, the critical importance of a scholarship of teaching.
The work we’re doing today takes the idea of the scholarship of teaching to the next step.
Today, the work is advanced through Networked Improvement Communities (NICs) that involve, in the case of our developmental mathematics initiative, the community college faculty in participating institutions who teach and implement the mathematics pathways. There is a kinship with Boyer’s scholarship of teaching, an idea that was expanded and built upon by Lee Shulman and his colleagues during his tenure at the Foundation. Carnegie continues the idea that teacher scholars, examining their own teaching, gather and share information and contribute to knowledge and field building in order to strengthen student learning. Carnegie’s roles then were the same as now: initiator, innovator and integrator. With our collaborators, we learn from each other, improve on what we know works and continuously create new knowledge, taking what we learn and making it usable by others.
The work we’re doing today takes the idea of the scholarship of teaching to the next step. We are forming networks of faculty joining together to address specific problems of practice. We are linking academic research, clinical practice and commercial expertise with new arrangements for disciplined inquiry where the work of “research” and “practice” join in a more dynamic and interactive fashion.
We can accomplish so much more by working together than we can by working alone.
These networks (NICs) are intentionally formed social organizations in which improvement goals impose specific demands on the norms of participation. Participants in a NIC endorse shared, precise, measureable targets. Participants agree to use what is learned, from working toward meeting the targets to setting new targets aimed at ever more ambitious goals. Shared measureable targets help a community stay focused on what matters most: sustained, broad-scale improvement in student learning and student success.
Developmental mathematics is just one problem of practice Carnegie is approaching in this way; we’re also tackling the improvement of teaching practice. At the same time, we are using improvement research internally and hope to work with other organizations who want to develop NICs around common problems that impede students’ educational success.
We confront a transformative moment in education. We can accomplish so much more by working together than we can by working alone.