Delta Change: Institutional Types, Challenges, and Public Good

Delta Change: Institutional Types, Challenges, and Public Good

John L. Hoffman (University of Minnesota, Crookston, USA) and Susana Hernández (California State University, Fresno, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2410-7.ch001
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Abstract

Within the context of a fast-evolving environment, leaders enhance their capacity to respond to exponential change by attending to enduring ideas and big questions. For higher education leaders, a core asset is the diversity of their institutions. In this chapter, the authors first examine the landscape of current and forecasted changes related to enrollment, technology, the 2020 global pandemic, and impending leadership succession. This sets up a discussion of critical climate challenges regarding the cost of higher education and the value of job skills. The perceived value proposition for higher education is further complicated by concerns regarding the political influence of colleges and universities on their students. Whereas these landscape and environment analyses could lead to concerns regarding future, we have cause to be optimistic. Within the context of political polarization, leaders will need to be advocates of inclusive equity and stewards of both deeply held academic ideals and pragmatic strategies that ensure students success and preparation for careers.
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Delta Change: Institutional Types, Challenges, And Public Good

Noted higher education historian, Christopher Lucas (2006), once stated, “in education there is only a single perdurable set of questions” (p. 299). Lucas’s claim regarding enduring questions seems to echo the ancient proverb, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). These days, however, it feels like one could add change to Benjamin Franklin’s two certainties in life: death and taxes. For many, change seems to be equally dubious.

Statisticians use the Greek letter Delta (∆) to indicate a measure or degree of change. Suppose that we suspect that students who take more math classes in high school typically perform better in their college-level math classes, but we want to know how much better. We could set up a study in which we examine students who complete one, two, three, or four math courses in high school and then compare their GPAs in math courses during college. We might find a simple linear relationship where students who took four math courses in high school typically earn A’s in college, those who took three courses earn B’s, and those who took two or one earn C’s and D’s respectively. In this scenario, the Delta for taking one additional math class in high school is one letter grade in college math courses. Alternatively, we might find that the relationship is not linear, but exponential. In this case, students who took four math classes in high school earn A’s in college, those who took three high school courses earn A-‘s, those who took two high school courses, earn B’s or B-‘s, and those who took one course in high school earn D’s and F’s. In a case such as this, we would conclude that the Delta for going from one to two high school math classes is quite large, but the Delta for each additional math course in high school becomes a little less—a case of diminishing returns on investment, so to speak.

While the findings of such a study are interesting, the reality is that studying change is much more complex. Even in this relatively basic example, one might ask about the grades the student earned in high school math courses, the rigor of those courses, the choice of textbooks, the quality of instruction, or the degree to which the high school teacher employed deficit or asset approaches to teaching and learning. As educational leaders who believe in the learning capacity of all students, we want to invest resources in those areas that will yield the largest Deltas—the greatest returns on investment. If, after considering multiple variables, it appears that the largest Delta are for helping students to earn a B or better in their second high school math course, then we might allocate limited dollars on tutoring or supplemental instruction for those courses in order to facilitate as many students as possible achieve their potential.

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