One question occurs to me when I read your posts on alternativesto the credit hour:
How might these reforms apply when predefined competencies aren'tnecessarily the purpose of college study? I'm speaking of music, whichis my field, though the question might apply to others too. It's commonfor a music major to choose a university to spend four years studyingwith a particular professor, not to achieve Competencies A through Z.("Competency A" might read "student can perform [x] repertoire withcorrect pitch and rhythm, good intonation, and expressive dynamics.")
Music schools accept students where they are, coaching them throughyears of progress in the direction they want to go. One freshman mightoutperform seniors, while another might be just starting to read music.If a music degree is a list of competencies, and if a freshman canalready play (or sing) 75% of the requirements, the school might say"you graduate in one year." In some fields, this might look like asolution to Baumol's cost disease. In my field, the student would berobbed of three years of faculty guidance refining her craft. Otherstudents would lose the educational experience of playing in ensembleswith high-performing peers.
Sometimes learning really does correlate to time. No one can pack 14hours of rehearsal into one day and expect to retain anything, but 2hours on 7 consecutive days gets you somewhere.
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely agree that music degrees need baselinecompetencies. Otherwise unscrupulous institutions can sell credit forplaying around. (Literally!) But competencies aren't the whole story.A music degree doesn't only mean "I can play [x] repertoire" and "I cananalyze [x] chords." A child prodigy might already meet thosestandards, but prodigies aren't always prepared for challenges requiringsteady effort over time. To me, a music degree means: "I put in thetime." It means: "I don't just have innate talent, I have a provenwork ethic." I've even heard of employers favoring graduates whodouble-majored in music for this reason.
How do you turn those outcomes into testable competencies? How woulddoing so improve productivity?
We hear from administrators that one-on-one instruction iscost-prohibitive. Music schools need instruments, concert halls, andrecording equipment, plus staff to maintain all of the above. We useFTE from 300-seat music appreciation lectures to subsidize privatelessons. We can break even, but we can't get ahead without sacrificinga fundamental purpose. Any school that shortens "seat time" in the nameof productivity will find the talented students going somewhere else.
If you view productivity as "man-hours for a student to earn a degree,"are fields based on individual instruction doomed to drag us all down?Is there a place for music in the emerging higher education landscape?
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