A conversation with Howard Gardner and Wendy Fischman about their comprehensive 8-year study of higher education institutions across the United States. As reported in their book The Real World of College, the campus experience today can be filled with surprising levels of alienation and a too-narrow focus on grades and piecemeal deliverables. Today, as colleges re-set after major pandemic disruptions, we step back to ask: What should college be — today and going forward? What should it teach? Gardner and Fischman shine light on a pathway to rediscovering and embracing the unique mission of higher education — and we’ll talk about how that applies to the world today’s graduates will inherit.
- Howard Gardner, Hobbs Research Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education
- Wendy Fischman, Project Director, Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Francesca Purcell, Senior Lecturer on Education, Faculty Director, Higher Education Program, Harvard Graduate School of Education
Key takeaways and prompts for action:
- Colleges have many missions and are taking on too much — offering students too many pathways, too many choices.
- This “mission sprawl” tends to dilute the core purpose of college: intellectual development.
- Students often identify “transactional” purposes for college — misaligned with faculty and administrators, who see identify a “transformational” purpose.
- Higher education capital: One’s ability to attend to, analyze, reflect, connect, and communicate new information and new knowledge.