Shattering the Institutional Belief System: New Agreements for Higher Education

Laura I. Rendón
Professor & Chair
Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
Iowa State University

A Question About Learning

  • Think about education in general. What are the most important things you would like for students to learn?

Creating a Pedagogy of Wholeness, Social Justice and Liberation

  • What are the characteristics of a teaching and learning model that speaks to wholeness, social justice and liberation?
  • What works against this kind of pedagogy in American higher education?
  • How would students be impacted by this kind of pedagogy?
  • Transforming Teaching & Learning
  • If we can see it is our agreements which rule our life, and we don’t like the dream of life, we need to change the agreements–Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements (1997)
Transformation: Confronting and Challenging the Institutional Belief System

  • Each institution has a shared belief system (overt and covert) that we agree to follow
  • Rewards and punishments based on following these beliefs and values
  • Many fear punishment for going against the belief system 
  • The dominant belief system is powerful, entrenched, validated and constantly rewarded
  • It is the consciousness with which institutions operate
Shattering the Belief System About Diversity

Moving Forward in Affirming Diversity

  • Interrogate prevailing belief system
  • Beliefs (agreements) are part of the hegemonic structures*/norms that perpetuate the status quo
  • Developing new beliefs or modifying present agreements can result in a new institutional consciousness that affirms diversity and inclusive learning environments
  • “Hegemony refers to the maintenance of domination not by the sheer exercise of force but primarily through consensual social practices, social forms, and social structures produced in specific sites such as the church, the state, the school, the mass media, the political system, and the family”–McLaren, 1989. 

The Agreement to 
Resist Engaging the Topic of Diversity

  • Diversity cannot be discussed openly because the topic creates tensions and makes people feel uncomfortable (hooks, 1994)
  • New Agreement: Diversity is an institutional value which may create discomfort for some; however, working through and resolving difficult issues can be liberating and rewarding. Diversity is a concept that disrupts complacent and unexamined attitudes to move forward with institutional transformation to affirm all people.
The Agreement to 
Minimize Diversity

  • Diversity requires only minor changes to the institution.
  • New Agreement: Diversity involves making structural changes throughout the institution (i.e., faculty and staff hires, student recruitment, curriculum, campus climate, planning and accountability, scholarship of diversity)–(Rendón,et al., 2007) 

Shattering the Belief System About 
Teaching and Learning

The Agreement of Monoculturalism

  • Almost exclusive validation of Western structures of knowledge (i.e., individual achievement, rationality, and subjugation of knowledge created by women, indigenous people and people of color)
  • Course offerings which preserve the superiority of Western civilization (i.e., belief that Western science contains the history of all science, adherence to conceptions of scientific rationality, objectivity and progress to distinguish the “civilized” from the “primitive”)
  • Dominance of faculty and administrators who subscribe to monocultural paradigms
  • Tuhiwai Smith (1999); Churchill (1982); Hills Collins (2000) Hurtado (1996); Arredondo, et al., 2003; Osei-Kofi, et al., (2004)
Recasting the Agreement

  • We need to change the agreement that Western ways of knowing are superior to all other forms of knowledge
  • What agreement would speak to the notion of embracing traditional, mainstream perspectives as well as knowledge generated by diverse people?
  • New Agreement: The agreement of multiculturalism and respect for diverse cultures

The Agreement to Privilege Mental Knowing

  • Privileges cerebral abilities such as verbal, scientific and mathematical ability
  • Prizes and rewards outer knowing (intellectual reasoning, rationality, and objectivity) at the expense of inner knowing (deep wisdom, wonder, sense of the sacred, intuition and emotions)
  • Yet, there are more than one or two intelligences
Diverse Ways of Knowing

  • Howard Gardner’s (1993) theory of multiple intelligences is predicated on 7 diverse ways of knowing. The first two–linguistic and logical-mathematical–are usually employed to construct IQ.
  • Gardner theorizes that linguistic and mathematical forms of intelligence may get a student into college, but that college achievement and success in life depend on all intelligences. 

Diverse Ways of Knowing

  • Daniel Goleman (1998) identified emotional intelligence (EQ) and its connection to neural systems in the brain. 
  • Goleman believes that EQ is more important than IQ for job performance and leadership. 
  • EQ has five elements:
  • Self-Awareness
  • Motivation
  • Self-regulation
  • Empathy
  • Adeptness in Relationships

Recasting the Agreement

  • We need to reframe the agreement that educational achievement and success in life depend solely on linguistic and logical-mathematical abilities.
  • What would be an example of a reframed agreement that is based not on a single approach to learning, but on multiple ways of knowing?
  • New Agreement: The agreement to work with diverse ways of knowing in the classroom.

Group Assignment

  • Identify an agreement (belief) that is present in higher education which needs to be transformed.
  • What different agreement would you like to see in place?

My Learning Inquiry: Core Question

  • What is the experience of working with an integrative, nondual, consonant pedagogy in higher education?