David Goldberg
Big Beacon

The recovery of Roman law texts in the 11the century led to the founding of the first university in Bologna in 1088, and in a real sense, the university was and continues to be a community of experts that collects, curates, creates, and propagates expert knowledge. This state of affairs has accelerated as the rise of modern technology and science has raised the importance and narrowed the focus of expertise.

Underlying this state of affairs is an epistemology of practice that has worked well enough in the modern era. Schoen (1983) called this theory of practical knowing technical rationality (TR). TR assumes that practice in the world is largely (or merely) the application of theory to practice. New York Yankees catcher and manager Yogi Berra once questioned this assumption: “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.”

Here, I suggest that the increase in access to information brought about by the Internet and widespread information technology has greatly reduced what an economist might call returns to expertise. As a result, the university finds its fundamental underpinnings in expertise severely challenged. Much of what and how the university teaches--the conveyance of expert knowledge by expert professors--is now commoditized and available online at low or no cost. Even research expertise is available to 14-year olds with laptops who can access what used to be obscure.

Thus, rethinking the university requires a more nuanced understanding of knowing in practice. Schoen offered an alternative to TR, what he called reflection-in-action (RIA), and elsewhere I have argued that taking RIA seriously leads to 5+1 critical shift (don’t call them soft) skills required both in higher education and its transformation. In the panel I’ll talk about the role of these shifts in rethinking and remaking the university.

David E. Goldberg (Dave) is an artificial intelligence pioneer, engineer, entrepreneur, educator, and trained leadership coach (Georgetown). He taught engineering at Michigan, Alabama, and Illinois for 27 years, and as an academic, was known for his work in artificial intelligence (AI), particularly genetic algorithms and evolutionary algorithms, amassing an h-index h=102 (here), including 5 authored texts, a number of edited volumes, and the highly cited Genetic Algorithms in Search, Optimization, and Machine Learning (Addison-Wesley, 1989). During his career he co-founded a Silicon Valley startup (www.sharethis.com), 3 academic conferences, including one combining philosophy & engineering, and an educational transformation incubator.

In 2010, Dave resigned his tenure at Illinois to go out into the world to help transform higher education as a result of the surprising success of the iFoundry (Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education) initiative at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Bootstrapped in 2007 in reaction to a suggestion to form yet another faculty committee to “study” engineering education, Dave refused the committee assignment and instead took immediate action and formed and led iFoundry as a bottom-up incubator for educational change. The off-the-books effort was made an official college activity in 2008 and it successfully elevated Illinois’s educational culture, giving faculty permission to work for educational change and giving students reason to expect more engaging & unleashing educational experiences.

Dave now heads www.ThreeJoy.com, a coaching & change leadership firm for higher education, and www.BigBeacon.org, a 501(c3) non-profit corporation devoted to transforming engineering education around the globe. His most recent book, A Whole New Engineer: The Coming Revolution in Engineering Education, is changing engineering education norms and practices around the world and is available in hardcover and e-book formats