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Bridging Purpose With Practice in Teaching

To prepare students for lives of civic engagement and economic responsibility, the professoriate must create a modern education structure that integrates liberal arts teaching practices and professional training. These practices must enhance students’ practical as well as intellectual dimensions of life and create a different conception of educational purpose, said scholars from The Carnegie Foundation.

The perpetual divide of these two schools of thought within the academy seemingly robs students of a well-rounded education. In an effort to assist colleges and universities build bridges between these fields, researchers at The Carnegie Foundation released a new report entitled, A New Agenda for Higher Education: Shaping A Life of the Mind for Practice.

“A New Agenda for Higher Education” is based on The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Seminar “ A Life of the Mind for Practice.” Founded in 2002, the seminar gathers educators representing both traditional liberal arts disciplines and professional disciplines.

These educators, who represent public and private as well as secular and religious institutions, ranging from research universities to liberal arts colleges, met three times to inquire into higher education’s ability to prepare students for lives of civic engagement and economic responsibility. Together these educators addressed the evolving purpose of higher education and the roles professors from both disciplines play in producing well-rounded students.

The report’s authors, Dr. William M. Sullivan and Dr. Matthew S. Rosin, insisted that the academy’s educational mission is formative. In the report, they offer a new model of undergraduate teaching focused on the interdependence of liberal education and professional training.

“Students need not only interpret the world, which is the great aim of liberal arts education, but to take up a place in it,” said Sullivan, a Carnegie senior scholar. “‘The Life Of The Mind’ refers to these traditional goals of liberal arts educations being able to understand the world. But we believe that it is important to connect that to life of engagement. That’s the reason for the term ‘for practice.’”

“Indeed, our treatment of professional schools and liberal arts faculty is often so cavalier that these parts of the academy never come together to deliberate about anything except for parking,” said Lee S. Shulman, president of The Carnegie Foundation. “If our college and universities don’t actively bring together educators in both fields, we will be guilty of forms of malfeasance and pedagogical malpractice.”

Through a narrative of the seminar, the report explains how liberal arts educators and professional educators can work collaboratively.

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