Попытки удешевления образования («повышение эффективности») ведут к понижению качества

Попытки удешевления образования («повышение эффективности») ведут к понижению качества

by Евгений Волков -
Number of replies: 1

Попытки удешевления образования («повышение эффективности») ведут к понижению качества, т.е. к ухудшению образования. Дёшево делается только дешёвка. Называется это «макдональдизация».

fundamental truth is that technology to advance learning can be great, as long as that technology is a complement - and not a substitute - for a well-trained and fully-supported educator.
In short, nothing matters more than the professor.

Основополагающая истина заключается в том, что технология для обучения может быть отличной, если эта технология является дополнением, а не заменой — для хорошо подготовленного и во всех отношениях поддерживаемого и обеспечиваемого педагога.
Короче говоря, нет ничего важнее, чем профессор.

We need to somehow come to grips with the fact that quality education will always be an educator-intensive activity, and therefore will always be expensive.

Нам нужно как-то сжиться с тем фактом, что качественное образование всегда будет интенсивной деятельностью педагога, и поэтому всегда будет дорогостоящим.


The Efficiency Paradox: What Big Data Can't Do Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 17, 2018
by Edward Tenner  (Author)

A bold challenge to our obsession with efficiency--and a new understanding of how to benefit from the powerful potential of serendipity

Algorithms, multitasking, the sharing economy, life hacks: our culture can't get enough of efficiency. One of the great promises of the Internet and big data revolutions is the idea that we can improve the processes and routines of our work and personal lives to get more done in less time than we ever have before. There is no doubt that we're performing at higher levels and moving at unprecedented speed, but what if we're headed in the wrong direction?

Melding the long-term history of technology with the latest headlines and findings of computer science and social science, The Efficiency Paradox questions our ingrained assumptions about efficiency, persuasively showing how relying on the algorithms of digital platforms can in fact lead to wasted efforts, missed opportunities, and above all an inability to break out of established patterns. Edward Tenner offers a smarter way of thinking about efficiency, revealing what we and our institutions, when equipped with an astute combination of artificial intelligence and trained intuition, can learn from the random and unexpected.


EdSurge <feedback@edsurge.com>


What’s wrong with efficiency? Well, when it comes to education, there’s a growing realization that it might be kryptonite. 

A provocative new book called “The Efficiency Paradox” argues that the dream of making education more efficient (in other words, cheaper) is impossible, or at least that it can’t be achieved without reducing quality. And the author, independent scholar Edward Tenner, also celebrates the staying power of low-tech tools that work as study aids despite their stubborn inefficiency—like paper notebooks, pens and pencils. He says the drive to achieve digital models of efficiency (in several sectors, not just in education), is taking attention away from interventions that work, like paying good teachers to teach (and maybe giving them tech to be even better). (Hat tip to Joshua Kim’s review of the book.)

Meanwhile, a growing scholarly critique offers an even broader look at the downsides of chasing educational efficiency. The argument bemoans a “McDonaldization” of higher education, in which leaders apply practices from business to classrooms to bring efficiency, predictability, calculability and control to the academic process. While the attempts are often well-meaning, they can backfire and stifle creativity, the argument goes. 

Even those who disagree with these champions of inefficiency should at least pay attention, since the views appear to be held by plenty of professors these days

Why education is expensive, and why technology will not be the solution.


July 15, 2018

The Efficiency Paradox: What Big Data Can't Do by Edward Tenner

Published in April of 2018.

I read lots of nonfiction. Unless these books are about higher education, higher education is unlikely to be mentioned. The Efficiency Paradox is different. Higher education plays a starring role.


This is one of the first books written by someone who works primarily outside of academia that gets at a fundamental truth about higher education right. That fundamental truth is that technology to advance learning can be great, as long as that technology is a complement - and not a substitute - for a well-trained and fully-supported educator.

In short, nothing matters more than the professor.

Any effort to make student learning more efficient by using technology to diminish the role of the professor will result in an inferior sort of education.

The fact that Tenner is not a full-time academic helps to make this observation both credible and insightful. Tenner does have a PhD in European History, but he has spent his career as an independent scholar and editor. 

It is good to hear someone from outside of academia celebrate the labor-intense nature of education. So much of what we hear from techno-evangelists outside of education is about making learning more efficient.  About using digital platforms to scale learning.

Tenner surveys the landscape of experiments to introduce technologies to advance learning, and concludes that these efforts almost always have unintended consequences. For many areas of higher education, the introduction of new technologies have added costs - as any scenario in which the technology substitutes for educators (such as the use of adaptive learning platforms) results in lower student performance. Quality education equals the educator plus the technology.

Education only accounts for a portion of this fantastic book. There are chapters on the unintended consequences of introducing technologies into areas such as navigation and healthcare. The negative impact of an irrational belief in the power of technology to drive productivity in higher education may not be as bad as “death by GPS”, but they are in the same ballpark.

Tenner is not anti-technology. In fact, he seems enthusiastic about all sorts of technological advances. What he is arguing for is a balanced understanding of the potential and pitfalls of new technologies. His main argument is that new technologies seldom ever replace existing structures. Rather, they shift things around - often in ways that are difficult to predict - but seldom in ways that simultaneously reduce costs while improving quality.

Automate one process, and you will put stress on another.  Save money on one thing, and you may find that you’ve eliminated the the core of what made the thing valuable in the first place.

The unintended consequences of technology adoption are perhaps most clear in journalism. The web, and now the phone, lowered barriers for the distribution of news.  The migration of classified advertising from paper to digital, however, eliminated one of the main sources of revenue that news gathering organizations depended on to pay for journalists.

While listening to The Efficiency Paradox I was surprised to hear my name mentioned.  There is a section where Tenner is writing about the price of textbooks, and making the point that all the digital supplements and materials have helped to drive up prices.  He quotes a “professor” who he says “disputes the charges of excessive pricing”.

The quote is:  “The sociologist Joshua Kim, for example, believes that texts costing hundreds of dollars can be fair values because of their included audio-visual aids for lectures and personalized exercises for students.” (p. 116).

Tenner was referencing something that I wrote in 2012 called Why Digital Supplements Drive High-Priced Textbook AdoptionIn that piece I was not trying to argue for the legitimacy of over-priced textbooks, or against the goodness of low-cost open educational resources.  Rather, I was trying to make sense of why professors continue to adopt the higher-priced publisher option - and to argue that to compete that open educational resources will need to start including digital supplements.

Anyway, I’m fine with Tenner not quite getting the nuances of my arguments. The fault is probably my own for not being clear enough in making my points. What I care about more is that Tenner is taking the time to engage in a critical dialogue around educational technology.

The Efficiency Paradox should be on the reading list of every trustee, president, provost, and dean who dreams about achieving learning efficiency through technology.

We need to somehow come to grips with the fact that quality education will always be an educator-intensive activity, and therefore will always be expensive.

We should look for ways to reduce costs in higher education in everything but learning.

What are you reading?

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In reply to Евгений Волков

‘McDonaldization’ of Higher Ed

by Евгений Волков -

As College Innovation Efforts Grow, So Do Warnings of a ‘McDonaldization’ of Higher Ed

By Jeffrey R. Young     Jul 30, 2018


As College Innovation Efforts Grow, So Do Warnings of a ‘McDonaldization’ of Higher Ed


Do you want fries with that education?

The question is one that many professors fear is essentially coming to colleges, as higher-ed leaders adopt practices from businesses in an attempt to rethink their operations. There’s even a growing body of scholarly work that outlines a critique against the corporatization of college—arguing that even when reforms are well-intentioned, they are making campuses more like burger franchises than centers of learning and research.

One of the most-cited versions of the critique is the 2002 book “The McDonaldization of Higher Education,” by Dennis Hayes and Robin Wynyard. The formulation is meant to provoke, and the authors boil their argument into four bullet points (adopting the style and spirit of the business books they critique). They argue that when college leaders adopt corporate practices in their reforms, they seek to bring efficiency, predictability, calculability and control to the academic process, at the expense of the core values of the academy.

The line of argument, nodding to a broader critique by sociologist George Ritzer who wrote “The McDonaldization of Society,” applies the work of German sociologist Max Weber (who was famous for riffing on what he saw as Kafkaesque modes of modern life) to debates about reforms happening on campuses today.

“It’s really about the bureaucratization of universities,” said Hayes, a professor of education at the University of Derby, in a recent interview with EdSurge. Often such changes start, Hayes said, with well-meaning objectives—like increasing the quality of teaching—but they can easily backfire. Once bureaucracies are put in place, and numeric factors are created to do things like measure and rank universities, those new processes tend to drive decisions. He calls this the“McDonaldization paradox”—that measures installed to improve education instead become inhibitors to creativity in classrooms. College leaders, he argues, are just not good at the business-style frameworks they’re putting in place.

His work focuses on British universities, where he says McDonaldization has taken hold more firmly than in the U.S. He specifically faults measures such as the National Student Survey, a satisfaction poll administered to undergraduates during their final year of study in colleges throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. He argued that the survey has led to an over-expansion of administrators put in to satisfy students rather than increase academic quality.

He also objects to a push by some British universities to break course material down into key competencies. “We often ask students to write an essay of 3,000 words on a topic, and it must have six learning outcomes,” he said. “So students write 500 words on each of the learning outcomes—and if they don’t, they’ll get marked down by the grader.” That has created a culture that discourages creativity, he argued. “Over a period of time everybody becomes intellectually lazy.”

Other scholars have applied the McDonaldization framework to a variety of academic institutions and disciplines—to nursing education, academic libraries, and specific U.S. institutions, including Arizona State University.

Some college administrators and edtech executives paint professors who resist innovation efforts as out of touch or opposed to technology. But Hayes stressed that he’s not against tech. Rather, he objects to what he sees as attempts to shut faculty members out of discussions of how to bring change to teaching and academic services.

“If you want technology to be used, you’ve got to win the argument for it” with faculty members, he said.

Finding Models

Some academic-innovation leaders say they agree with the spirit of the McDonaldization critique—arguing that innovation at colleges should be done carefully, and that it should not focus on efficiency.

“If we go down the path of making everything efficient, we’re going to lose the chance to have that space for discovery,” said Kristen Eshleman, director of digital innovation at Davidson College, who has grappled with such critiques in her essays on innovation. “It’s about making the space for discovery. And industry does this. Models that you have in the most innovative corporate environments are the ones we should be looking at in higher ed.”

She stressed that what works for one type of college might not work for others—something she said has been true for corporations as well. For instance, a lead developer of the Post-It note at industrial giant 3M has said on record that the company had a terrible experience using a trendy innovation method known as Six Sigma, arguing that it almost “killed innovation” at the company.

Eshleman recommends a book by Steven Johnson called “Where Good Ideas Come From” for examples of how companies have succeeded in generating great new ideas. “One of the key features of innovation is they’ve generally evolved over time as slow hunches,” she said, summing up his argument. “You have to allow the conditions for those kind of slow hunches to happen.”

While that approach might work for Davidson, she noted that the advice may be of little use to a college facing financial troubles. “We have the luxury of doing that because we’re not in an immediate crisis,” she added. “It really does boil down to that tension between efficiency and innovation.”

Meanwhile, for institutions not in a crisis, the question is how to encourage innovation when things seem to be going just fine. “Success is the biggest barrier to change,” Eshleman said. She suggested looking for “pain points” for faculty that new ideas and approaches could help address.

Getting faculty buy-in for such efforts, though, can be a challenge—especially in an era when the McDonaldization critique serves as the backdrop, and many professors worry that some new push by administrators today could turn into a future threat to their profession.

Eshleman pointed to a controversy a few years ago at Amherst College. In 2013, Amherst considered experimenting with massive open online courses (also known as MOOCs) by forming a partnership with a nonprofit called edX. The matter was put to a vote of the faculty, and it was struck down by a large majority.

To Eshleman, the story is one of missed opportunity. Davidson also experimented with MOOCs around that time, and even though the effort did not live up to the hype, Eshleman said her college learned important lessons about how to try new things that the institution is benefitting from now. “What it really catalyzed for us is we saw for the first time how we could do [research and development],” she said. “That’s not what we went into this thinking we would learn.”

Her advice to other college leaders: Don’t start with some grand vision for where a new effort will take the institution, but go in looking to learn and to improve.

Still, she admits that getting faculty input is "tricky." “If you just try to get the buy-in first without doing anything,” she added, “I don’t think anything will happen.”

Yet academics like Dennis Hayes say that in higher education broadly, things are moving too far away from getting faculty input. “One thing that’s missing in a lot of these technical innovations is the free flow of debate,” he argues. “There’s a drift toward not having the debate.”

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