A Compendium of Recent Research and Books of Interest to Higher Education Professionals



Improving How Universities Teach Science: Lessons from the Science Education Initiative

Carl E. Wieman
(Harvard University Press, 2017)
All students, future scientists or not, need some of the skills that the sciences teach, such as the quantitative analytical skills increasingly valued by employers. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Carl E. Wieman has pioneered and championed the use of experimental techniques to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of various teaching methods for mathematics and the natural sciences. The results are dramatic. Even the best lectures result in substantially less student learning than active learning methods. Fortunately, active learning can be adapted to teaching in other disciplines and settings and is already used in many CIC college classrooms (and is being presented in CIC’s new Seminars on Science Pedagogy). In this book, Wieman discusses the cognitive science foundations of the most effective teaching strategies, and he details the process he and his colleagues used to convince colleagues to adopt more effective teaching methods. Wieman also distills more effective ways to evaluate the quality of teaching in STEM fields and the social sciences.

Leading Colleges and Universities: Lessons from Higher Education Leaders

Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, Gerald B. Kauvar, and E. Gordon Gee, editors
(Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018)
This volume of brief essays by three dozen experienced presidents and other leaders in higher education is intended to provide candid reflections and examples from successful practitioners, illustrative of how they faced the many challenges that confront college and university presidents today. Along with long-term core issues, the writers tackle more recent concerns involving free speech, Title IX, athletics, fraternities, and student and faculty diversity. Three CIC presidents, including Marvin Krislov of Pace University (NY), Chris Howard of Robert Morris University (PA), and John M. McCardell Jr. of Sewanee: The University of the South (TN), wrote chapters, as did CIC Senior Fellow and President Emerita of Kenyon College (OH) S. Georgia Nugent.


Accountability and Opportunity in Higher Education: The Civil Rights Dimension

Gary Orfield and Nicholas Hillman, editors
(Harvard Education Press, 2018)
This book addresses the unforeseen impact of accountability standards on students of color and the institutions that disproportionately serve them. Edited by Gary Orfield, a distinguished research professor and cofounder and codirector of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Nicholas Hillman, associate professor of educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the chapters are written by leading scholars (including Adriana Ruiz Alvarado, assistant professor in the school of education at the University of Redlands [CA], and Willie Kirkland, director of institutional research at Dillard University [LA]). The book describes how federal policies can worsen existing racial inequalities in higher education and offers alternatives designed to advance civil rights for low-income and minority students. Based on a series of research studies, the contributors suggest new ways to evaluate and design accountability policies to avoid predictable negative consequences.

Winnebagos on Wednesdays: How Visionary Leadership Can Transform Higher Education

Scott Cowen with Betsy Seifter
(Princeton University Press, 2018)
Winnebagos on Wednesdays argues that colleges and universities of all types can achieve their educational goals if they possess two things: visionary leadership and a strong mission. Scott Cowen, president emeritus and distinguished university chair of Tulane University, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the critical demands faced by many campus leaders and examines how they overcame difficulties to save their institutions. Cowen also draws from his own hard-won experiences, including the rebuilding of Tulane and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the decision to maintain Tulane’s football program. The book provides a broad overview of the higher education landscape and shows how crucial choices in tough situations shape colleges and universities.

How University Boards Work: A Guide for Trustees, Officers, and Leaders in Higher Education

Robert A. Scott
(Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018)
This book is designed to help trustees understand how to fulfill their responsibilities—whether hiring a new president, advising senior staff, managing investments, overseeing strategic initiatives, or others. Robert A. Scott, former president of Adelphi University and of Ramapo College of New Jersey, wrote the book drawing on his personal experience and considerable research. The succinct and candid guide includes an explanation of the difference between governance and management, advice on how to prepare for board decisions and discussions, examples of positive and negative board behavior, guidance about board professional development, and tips on managing presidential transitions. The book would be an important resource for both trustees and presidents, as well as anyone seeking to understand institutional governance.

Free-Range Learning in the Digital Age: The Emerging Revolution in College, Career, and Education

Peter Smith
(Select Books, 2018)
In today’s information-rich, digitized society, new technologies and data analytics are defining learning opportunities that were previously unimaginable. This book aims to define this new learning space and give readers the awareness, knowledge, and tools to use it. The author argues that society undervalues the education that occurs outside of college through digital means, and he shows how people can get the most from their education, whether it is from a university or online learning. Peter Smith, Orkand Endowed Chair and Professor of Innovative Practices in Higher Education at Uni¬versity of Maryland University College, has worked to help adult learners realize their potential throughout his distinguished career in higher education, which includes serving as founding president of both California State University Monterey Bay and the Community College of Vermont as well as working on education issues in the United Nations.

Who Gets In? Strategies for Fair and Effective College Admissions

Rebecca Zwick
(Harvard University Press, 2017)
Author Rebecca Zwick, distinguished presidential appointee at Educational Testing Service and professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Barbara, examines the current high-stakes competition of U.S. college admissions. Analyzing survey data from college and university applicants, she assesses the goals of different admissions systems and the fairness of criteria—from high school grades and standardized test scores to race, socioeconomic status, and students’ academic aspirations. The book reviews the merits and flaws of competing approaches and demonstrates that admissions policies sometimes fail to produce the desired results. Zwick explains that there is no objective way to evaluate admissions systems, but that colleges’ admissions policies should reflect the particular educational philosophy of the institution. She believes that colleges should be free to include socioeconomic and racial preferences among their admissions criteria, but that they should strive for transparency about the factors they use to assess applicants.

Making Sense of the College Curriculum: Faculty Stories of Change, Conflict, and Accommodation

Robert Zemsky, Gregory R. Wegner, Ann J. Duffield
(Rutgers University Press, 2018)
To help answer why developing a coherent undergraduate curriculum can be difficult at colleges and universities, the authors recount personal, humorous, powerful, and poignant stories from more than 185 faculty members from 11 colleges and universities, representing all sectors of higher education. Written by Robert Zemsky, chair of the Learning Alliance, Gregory R. Wegner, director of program development at the Great Lakes Colleges Association, and Ann J. Duffield, college strategic planning and communications consultant, the stories contradict the public’s and policymakers’ belief that faculty members care more about their scholarship and research than their students and work far less than most people. The book provides insights into the barriers to broader curricular change—impediments that can be overcome by a new kind of partnership among faculty, institutional decision makers, and education leaders.



Completing College: A State-Level View of Student Completion Rates

(Signature Report No. 14a)
Doug Shapiro, Afet Dundar, Faye Huie, Phoebe Wakhungu, Xin Yuan, Angel Nathan, and Ayesha Bhimdiwala
(National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, February 2018)
This joint study by the National Student Clearinghouse and the Project on Academic Success at Indiana University examines national and state-level six-year college completion rates by sector for the student cohort that matriculated in fall 2011. Nationally, 76 percent of students who started at a four-year private nonprofit institution completed a degree within six years (see Figure 1). By comparison, the national completion rate for those who started in four-year public institutions was 65 percent. In 12 states, more than 80 percent of students who started at a four-year private nonprofit institution completed a degree within six years. Access the full report.
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FIGURE 1: More Students Who Start at Private Nonprofit Colleges Complete Their Degrees in Six Years—a Larger Percentage Than Students Who Start at Other Institutions

Bar graph showing total degree completion rate percent by three college sectors: 76% at four-year private nonprofit colleges; 65% at four-year public colleges; 35% at four-year for-profit colleges (link opens larger version of image in new window)
Data source: Completing College: A State-Level View of Student Completion Rates. 2018. National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Figure created by the Council of Independent Colleges.

Institutions’ Use of Data and Analytics for Student Success: Results from a National Landscape Analysis

Amelia Parnell, Darlena Jones, Alexis Wesaw, and D. Christopher Brooks
(Association for Institutional Research [AIR], NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and EDUCAUSE, April 2018)
This report presents the results of a survey examining how colleges and universities use data and analytics to foster student success, conducted in a partnership among AIR, NASPA, and EDUCAUSE. The survey collected responses from nearly 1,000 institutional research (IR), student affairs, and information technology (IT) professionals at public, private, two-, and four-year institutions across the United States. Major findings include that most institutions are investing in data and analytics projects but less often measure the cost of these projects; many institutions conduct first-year student success studies from multiple angles; and while data-related responsibilities in IR, student affairs, and IT often are siloed, they nevertheless contribute to institution-wide goals related to improving student success. Access the full report. Opens in new window

Minority-Serving Institutions as Engines of Upward Mobility

Lorelle L. Espinosa, Robert Kelchen, and Morgan Taylor
(American Council on Education, June 2018)

Minority serving institutions (MSIs) often play an integral role in the education of students from low-income families and communities of color where educational attainment is disproportionately low and income mobility can be stagnant. Using the latest Equality of Opportunity Project data, this report compares the upward income mobility of students who attended two- and four-year MSIs to that of students who did not. For the four-year sector, results indicate that attending four-year MSIs pushes students from the bottom income distribution to the top income distribution at higher rates than is the case for those attending non-MSIs. The findings demonstrate the value of MSIs as a viable path up the economic ladder and reinforce the value proposition of higher education overall as a path to greater prosperity. Access the full report. Opens in new window

New Approaches to Judging Quality in Higher Education: Profiles of Emerging Methods Apart from Traditional Accreditation

Tafaya Ransom, Erin Knepler, and Claudia Zapata-Gietl of NORC at the University of Chicago
(Council for Higher Education Accreditation, July 2018)

This report investigates new approaches for assessing quality in higher education that do not follow the traditional accreditation model, and it discusses comparative data sets as an alternative form of quality review. Programs reviewed include the Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) experiment by the U.S. Department of Education (encouraging partnerships between Title IV-eligible colleges and universities and nontraditional education and training providers not eligible for Title IV financial aid) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s (CHEA) Quality Platform. The Quality Platform sets outcomes-based standards for conducting voluntary external quality reviews of alternative providers, emphasizing student achievement. Access the full report. Opens in new window

Web Tools

Study the Humanities: Make the Case

(National Humanities Alliance)

screen capture of the Study the Humanities: Making the Case website  

The National Humanities Alliance recently launched Study the Humanities, a new web-based toolkit designed to help make the case for the value of studying the humanities as an undergraduate. Currently in Phase One, the website aggregates available quantitative and qualitative data, examples of high-achieving humanities graduates, and compelling articles and videos that show how the humanities help students succeed in a wide range of careers and provide benefits beyond the marketplace. Building on contributions from the humanities community, Phase Two will include additional data along with success stories about how humanities faculty members and administrators across the country are developing innovative ways to promote the humanities on college campuses. View the toolkit. Opens in new window

Where Historians Work

(The American Historical Association)

The American Historical Association now offers an interactive online database that catalogues the career outcomes of history PhDs (see Figure 2). Powered by Tableau, the database tracks the careers of 8,515 historians who earned PhDs at U.S. universities from 2004 and 2013, providing the fullest picture of PhD careers available for any discipline. AHA hopes that the tool will: help current and potential graduate students understand the full scope of career options open to history PhDs and to research which departments best fit their values and goals; help departments better meet the professional development needs of their doctoral students; and document the broad impact of doctoral education in history. View the Where Historians Work database.

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FIGURE 2: Database Shows Major Careers beyond the Professoriate for History PhDs

Bubble chart depicting careers for history PhDs by size of bubbles (link opens larger version of image in new window)
Note: Careers are classified by U.S. Department of Labor occupational codes.

Source: Where Historians Work. 2018. American Historical Association.