What’s up with Elective Selection?

Colloquium | September 30 | 4-5:30 p.m. | Berkeley Way West, Room 1102, 2121 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA 94720

 Mitchell L Stevens, Stanford University

 Graduate School of Education

Students’ freedom to choose majors and courses of study — elective selection — is a fundamental feature of undergraduate education in the United States. Researchers and policymakers take it for granted, and we shouldn’t. Elective selection is intellectually and politically convenient, but also creates wicked management problems. It empowers students to forge their own academic programs but also produces concatenating choice and tradeoff dilemmas and opportunities for the reproduction of gender and ethno-racial stereotypes. It makes for uncanny combinations of knowledge and discovery but also places ultimate responsibility for timely academic progress with students, not schools. Drawing on current work of Stanford’s Carta lab (cartalab.stanford.edu) I provide a synthetic rationale for why elective selection deserves an explicit social science and also an ethics.

About the speaker. Mitchell L Stevens is Associate Professor and Faculty Chair of the Education Enterprise program at Stanford University. He studies educational decision making, the quantification of academic performance, and alternative educational forms. The author of award-winning studies of home education and selective admissions, his most recent books are Remaking College: The Changing Ecology of Higher Education and Seeing the World: How US Universities Make Knowledge in a Global Era. With Martin Kurzweil, he co-convenes the project Responsible Use of Student Data in Higher Education. He has written scholarly articles for a variety of academic journals and editorials for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, and the New York Times.