As our seminar on “Designing the Course of the Future” has proceeded, we have had the pleasure of welcoming guest speakers on a variety of topics: Sherry Turkle of MIT on the social and psychological effects of technology, Tom Jehn of the Harvard College Writing Program on writing across the curriculum, Lynn Stein of Olin College on classroom design.
This past Monday we welcomed Stephen Larsen, who after teaching at St. John’s College and here at Harvard has moved on to direct international university programs in China and the Asia Pacific region. Dr. Larsen added two key elements to our ongoing efforts to imagine the future of education: firstly, he spoke about the multiple efforts to globalize American style higher education, and secondly (and relatedly) the way collaborations between non-profit and for-profit education are structuring this process.
Dr. Larsen argued that within these large-scale transformations “innovation” is a key term, especially in the cutting-edge internationalizing programs and in the Chinese universities, and that discussions about innovation, whether related to curricular content or pedagogical approaches, require a clearer account than we currently have of what it means to teach students to be innovators and to train faculty to teach in the spirit of innovation. He brought to the fore several fundamental questions: How can we imagine curricular and pedagogical reform, whether here or abroad, that would put greater emphasis on the development of innovating skills and habits of mind? How do you teach innovation? And how do you adapt existing institutions or create new ones that can support innovation, especially when introducing institutional changes requires commitment from diverse contributors and stakeholders.