Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Presentations I'd Like to See

The AACC and League for Innovation conferences have both issued their calls for proposals for their Spring conferences. The conferences feature people from community colleges across the country, and at their best, they highlight useful discoveries and/or experiments. (At their worst, they provide scholarly cover for informercials, and a distressing amount of “you had to be there” war stories, but so it goes.) It was at the League that I discovered the groundbreaking work by the CCRC on developmental course sequences, for example; that’s wonderful stuff that I’m hoping will lead to some actual change locally.

But too many of the presentations fall under the “look at me!” category. They’re undertheorized celebrations of a single program in a single place, often presented by the people who developed those programs. (“The [catchy acronym] program couldn’t have succeeded without the tireless work of...”) Looking at the list of panels, you’d think that nothing ever failed. The individual incentives for owning failure are modest at best, but from the perspective of the pragmatic observer, the need for a candid discussion of failures is real. Scholarly conferences have plenty of those, since they’re populated mostly by researches who can safely take a third-person perspective and discuss failure without owning it. Since the conferences are dominated by practitioners, rather than scholars of the field, that third-person perspective is missing.

So, a list of presentations I’d like to see:

“Oops! We Did It Again! How Internal Politics Derailed Curricular Reform.”

“Why the XYZ Program worked At Smith CC But Didn’t Work at Jones CC”

“The Least Harmful Ways to Cut Budgets.”

“Lessons from a Train Wreck: How Not to Implement a New CMS”

“This Wasn’t What I Had In Mind: Helping Ivy-Trained Faculty Adjust to the Realities of a Community College”

“How to Cure the Common Curmudgeon, or At Least Make it Look Like an Accident”

“You Say Sinecure, I Say Tomahto: Shared Governance and Conflicts of Interest.”

"If This is Such a Cushy Job, Why Can't We Fill It?: When Administrative Searches Fail.”

“Here a Grant, There a Grant, Everywhere a Grant Grant: How to Manage Declining Operating Budgets when Grants Come With Strings”

and the one success story I’d really like to hear...

“How I Convinced My State to Divert Money from Rich People and Prisons to Public Higher Education”

Wise and worldly readers, if you were program chair for these conventions, what presentations would you like to see?