In Chapter 1 of Open & Integrative, Bass and Eynon note that many students are entering higher education with “uneven academic preparation,” with some of the students coming from “dysfunctional school systems” or other challenging circumstances. They go on to discuss the boon liberal education would be to those students with its emphasis on “critical thinking, problem solving, historical perspective, integrative learning.” As I reflected on passages from Chapter 1, I wondered–are higher education institutions really prepared to do this work?
So often, students from the backgrounds that Bass and Eynon describe are left to feel rudderless in a swiftly moving academic stream–and reminded over and over how their backgrounds or life challenges will make things more difficult for them or haven’t prepared them in any way. However, many of these students have already used critical thinking, problem solving, and the like before entering higher education institutions (sometimes before entering secondary institutions). Where are the spaces that help these students understand that they already possess some of the very skills that help people to be successful not only in college, but in life? Where are the appreciative approaches to educating students? Are the integrative approaches institutions use integrative across the experiences they will have (are having) in college, or do they also include integrating some of the very useful skills these students developed prior to attending the higher education institution? With technology, for example, were these students already using technology in integrative, open ways prior to their higher education experience? If so, how will institutions gather this information?