Re-envisioning Professional Education
"Re-envisioning Professional Education," written by Kimberly Austin, Elizabeth Chu, and James Liebman, examines the state of professional education, the need for reform, and the promises and challenges of implementing the dramatic changes needed to prepare professionals for the 21st workplace.
In the dynamic and hyper-connected 21st century, workplace and career paradigms are rapidly changing. The professions are no exception. Technology has routinized and increased access to the expertise that traditionally set professionals apart from other workers, leading some to forecast professions’ demise. Even if new forms of complexity and needs for expertise continue to outrun technology, professionals’ lives and careers will diverge dramatically from past norms. In the world we anticipate, learning to learn will far outstrip the importance of applying the specialized knowledge with which professionals are initially programmed.
If this prediction is correct, then university-based professional schools, which historically have done that initial programming, must change at the same pace as their graduates’ careers. Evidence that professional schools are not evolving is widespread. Employers and policymakers criticize professional schools for not preparing graduates to succeed in the modern workplace or to solve increasingly acute public problems. And prospective students are voting with their feet, opting for less expensive and more relevant training from accelerators, boot camps, and massive open online courses (MOOCs) and in dynamic work environments themselves. In order to help professionals retool for the modern world, professional education must retool itself.
In March 2017, CPRL hosted two dozen U.S. and Canadian leaders of innovative university-based graduate programs in multiple disciplines and allied professional organizations at the Accelerating Multidimensional Learning in Professional Education Convening at Columbia University. In preparation for the convening, CPRL staff prepared this paper to provoke discussion about the state of professional education, the need for reform, and the promises and challenges of implementing the dramatic changes needed to prepare professionals for the 21st workplace. Part I describes learning competencies modern professionals need for success in rapidly diversifying careers solving multidimensional problems.
At the Convening and in a follow-up survey, participants identified two kinds of next steps to which most were prepared to devote significant time:
1. Co-visitation and collaboration to work together through common problems of practice, perhaps generating co-authored research; and/or
2. Chartering and developing a strategic plan for an interdisciplinary alliance for change in professional education.
CPRL intends to pursue these next steps over the course of the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 academic years. If you are interested in participating, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.