Why a dialectic journal?

  • R. Alan Cheville Bucknell University



Point of view: I am a cisgender white male in my mid-fifties. I have spent most of my life in higher education in engineering departments. My experiences have included undergraduate and graduate education at a private, research-intensive institution, postdoc and faculty at a land-grant institution, serving for several years as a program officer at the National Science Foundation (NSF), and most recently as chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering department at a private, liberal arts, predominantly undergraduate institution. This article draws on all these experiences, but particularly from my time serving at NSF and in the years since. I am also one of the founders of Murmurations: Equity, Emergence, and Education and represent my own perspective on what I hope this experimental journal can contribute to the larger education ecosystem.

Value: This article outlines my rationale in partnering with others to start a dialogue journal. I believe education is one of the best ways to address systemic inequities, but education systems in the US seem to be increasingly subject to criticism that they are unable to change and promote equity. This article hypothesizes that resistance to change is structurally built into the system through the mental models held by the system’s participants. These models can be broadly classified as oriented towards identifying problems rather than proposing solutions. While such approaches work in simple systems, they often backfire in complex systems that have multiple and often competing impacts. For meaningful change to occur we ourselves must seek to expand our perspectives and change our mental model of education to one of a complex ecosystem. Changing mental models is hypothesized to occur by engaging in meaningful dialogues with others who have experiences different than our own. By providing a forum for these conversations my hope is that Murmurations will serve as a vehicle to share perspectives from different niches within the larger ecosystem, which in turn can shift mental models. Since Murmurations is an experiment, an additional intent is to encourage voices from across the education ecosystem to make contributions.