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Higher Education -- Reform, Educational change -- Portland State University


In American higher education, change is continuous but occurs most often at the margins, generally taking the form of piecemeal or isolated efforts and programs. Only rarely are change projects comprehensive in their scope and transformative in their effects. In this chapter we describe the context for comprehensive curricular change at Portland State University and offer a more general theoretical construct about institutional change in higher education. That there are so few examples of comprehensive institutional change in American higher education is indicative of the complex mix of internal and external factors that constrain change efforts. We have found that while external factors provide an array of supportive and threatening messages, internal conditions determine whether the institution will choose to respond by creating an environment supportive of comprehensive change. From the Portland State experience we identify and discuss several factors which contributed to our decision to approach institutional reform in a comprehensive manner. A hallmark of the Portland State approach is that institutional reform is understood to be a scholarly activity, not administrative work. As we progressed through the change process we have identified three sets of scholarly questions which guide our work. These have followed each other in a "generation" sequence as the institution has moved through the stages of change. Our discussion of these points to the interplay between the process of change and building a scholarly basis to inform that process.


Copyright 1997 Hokkaido University Higher Education Center for Research and Development All rights reserved.

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