1st Edition

Accountability, Pragmatic Aims, and the American University

By Ana M. Martínez-Alemán Copyright 2012
    152 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    152 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Accountability, Pragmatic Aims, and the American University frames the debates on teaching and learning accountability in Higher Education. By examining significant historic periods in Higher Education, Martínez-Alemán explores the present apprehension about accountability in today’s colleges and universities. Throughout the book’s chapters, Martínez-Alemán uses the pragmatic philosophy of John Dewey to enlighten current understandings of professional freedoms and she also discusses democratic imperatives in light of accountability obligations: the teaching of undergraduates, data and empirical research on college teaching and learning, and the institutional policies for graduate student and faculty teaching development. This book reveals the tensions between the democratic character of the university—qualities that may seem irreconcilable with accountability metrics—and the corporate or managerial economies of modern American universities. Higher Education faculty, administrators, public policy makers, and students enrolled in Higher Education Masters and PhD programs will find that this book informs their practice and will serve to contribute to the debates on accountability for years to come.

    @contents:Chapter 1         Introduction: Accountability and the University’s Democratic Imperatives

    In the contemporary American university demands for faculty accountability embody a manifestation of the prevailing conflict between conceptions of authority and freedom in democratic social institutions that Dewey identified decades ago, especially in the faculty’s central purpose: the teaching of undergraduates.  In this text, the author will argue that though faculty teaching accountability mandates are not inherently undemocratic, i.e. that in principle holding the faculty responsible for its professional functions is not an undemocratic exercise of authority that restricts the freedom of the faculty. Rather, my concern is more about the evidence that infers that many contemporary challenges to academic freedom and the rise of standardization in instruction and knowledge production are guided by authoritative forces that risk diluting the democratic purposes of the university.  The author will propose that the increasing corporatization of the university coupled with traditionalist social forces inhospitable to (and suspicious of) the mission of the university stand to deter the university from enacting its democratic mission, and prevent faculty from carrying out their democratic responsibilities. 

    Chapter 2        The Historic Purposes of Higher Learning in America and the Challenge of Accountability

    In American higher educational history, the teaching of undergraduates has been its core purpose and mission.  In this chapter, the author will review the evolution of the purposes of American higher education—from the hilltop colonial colleges teaching a liberal educational curriculum to young men to the rise of the public, land-grant universities offering young men and women curricular choices in the liberal arts and the agricultural, mechanical and technical sciences, to today’s multi-service university where research and scientific development stand along side undergraduate teaching.  Throughout each historic period, undergraduate teaching and learning face external challenges (e.g. coeducation, integration) but as the university enters the 21st century, the challenge to account for how students are taught and how they learn becomes prominent.  By the late 1990’s, funding for public higher education will be tied to how well institutions can account for undergraduate teaching and learning.  


    Chapter 3         Postsecondary Teaching


    Research and scholarship on teaching and learning in the university is a relatively modern phenomenon.  Though modern universities can trace their historic practices and rituals to the medieval universities of Paris and Bologna (and some would even argue to ancient Greece), little formal and empirical research on how and why faculty teach in the university has been conducted until the latter half of the 20th century.  Though essays by faculty, university memoirs, and policy treatise’s composed by university presidents have certainly framed the issues surrounding the teaching of undergraduates by the now professionalized faculty, it is not until the rise of the assessment movement that university teaching is held under the empirical microscope.  Motivated in part by a desire to ‘catch-up’ with K-12 teacher education research and scholarship, and by public outcry about the teaching of undergraduates in the 1980’s,  the assessment movement will find receptive audiences in new faculty populations who privilege pedagogy (e.g. feminist studies, race and ethnic studies faculty) and the growing accountability movement.  It is also true that these two forces gave rise to the growth of teaching centers and teaching resources units on university campuses.  In this chapter, the author will review briefly the ‘history’ of scholarship and research on university teaching, the rise of the assessment movement, and the current state of teaching as faculty development.

    Chapter 4         The Rise of Managerialism


    Introduced in Chapter One, the rise of the corporate university will bring to higher education managerial practices that will be imposed on teaching and learning, historically a relationship controlled by faculty.  The academic profession, historically autonomous and motivated by the privilege of academic freedom, has assumed teaching a professional responsibility largely vocational in character.  With the rise of corporate practices in the university, faculty have been challenged to provide evidence of student learning, to provide evidence of effective teaching.  IN sum, faculty have been asked to account for their teaching of undergraduate relative to institutional benchmarks and other metrics of standardization.  In this chapter, the author examines the tensions between the vocational nature of college teaching and the corporate or production economies of modern universities.

    Chapter5          The Academic Profession and Undergraduate Teaching


    In this chapter the author examines how the academic profession has come to understand itself relative to the teaching of undergraduates.  The history of the faculty and its essential character is one that dates back to Western antiquity.  As intellectual guide and moral role model, ancient faculty were charged with the education of the young and the communication and transmission of culture.  Throughout history however, the role and purpose of the faculty has expanded, become more complex, garnered autonomy and flourished under the protection of academic freedom.  This chapter will discuss how the current demands for accountability challenge the nature and character of the faculty, and how faculty have responded to these challenges

    Chapter 6         Higher Learning in the 21st Century University


    This chapter will explore how demands for educational equity, changes in student demography, advances in technology, and the increase in part-time, untenured faculty will impact undergraduate teaching and faculty roles. In this chapter I will examine (a) the rise and role of teaching and learning centers on university campuses, (b) the development of graduate students as undergraduate teachers, and (c) how undergraduate teaching plays a role in university rankings and accreditation.

    Chapter 7         Conclusions:


    To conclude, the author returns to the discussion of the mission of higher education in American society, a mission with democratic aims.  American higher education, and public higher education in particular, must provide the means for the individuation of citizens, be accepted as the place for the free exchange of ideas and for the communication of knowledge.  By staying true to this mission higher education can serve the public good.  But this historic mission is being challenged by accountability forces, demands that dismiss the relational nature of teaching and learning and that will transform faculty’s vocational labour into occupational work. 


    Ana M. Martínez-Alemán is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership & Higher Education Administration at the Lynch School of Education, Boston College.

    "Finally, the higher education community has a clear work that brings thoughtfulness to university accountability! Martínez-Alemán brings presidents and provosts to their senses with a concise, insightful guide through the uses and abuses of accountability that have pervaded -- and often derailed -- the American research university in its missions and societal influence. This work is both useful and hopeful in fusing philosophical analysis with the vitality of academic institutions."

    -- John Thelin, University Research Professor in Higher Education & Public Policy, University of Kentucky

    "This book offers us a reading of how the moral and democratic purposes of research universities have changed. In an era in which "public accountability" strictly has come to mean accounting, and what counts as knowledge is constrained by scientism and profit, it is refreshing to see Martínez-Alemán’s unabashedly moral and political defense of higher education’s democratic possibilities."

    -- Benjamin Baez, Associate Professor of Higher Education, Florida International University