Monday, November 10, 2014

On Being Heard

At the recent AECT meeting in Jacksonville, Florida, I experienced something disturbing that I have seen in faculty meetings at various universities – namely, when there is a senior faculty member expressing a very strong opinion in a manner that is intended to be the last word on the subject, junior faculty are reluctant to voice their concerns. This is unfortunate and not healthy for an organization nor for the development of junior faculty. When I think back over that experience at AECT and prior experiences at my present university and at prior universities, I came to the realization that I am part of the problem. I could have actively elicited the views of those who were probably feeling repressed, but I did not do so. I am posting this short note as a call for senior faculty to help others, especially junior faculty, speak out and be heard. Most of us have no problem in getting our students to speak out and be heard. Why should that practice not extend to our colleagues – all of our colleagues? 

My general tendency is to believe that issues in academia and higher education are complex and often without a clear optimal solution. Because issues are complex and dynamic, hearing all views and not just those of a few senior persons is important. Thinking about other experiences at AECT 2014, I spent time with and heard presentations by several leading lights in our field, including Dave Merrill, Tom Reeves, and Charlie Reigeluth. Those individuals are quite open to alternative views and express their views not so strongly as to be intended to be the final and definitive words on an issue. We need more such individuals, and we need to hear from junior persons who so often have innovative ideas and really excellent questions. Speak out and be heard, but be open to alternative perspectives – listening to those who think differently can prove worthwhile. As Nietzsche said in The Dawn, “ the surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in high esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”

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