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Article review

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Article review

  1. 1. EDUC.1115 Foundations of Applied EducationAssignment 4- Article ReviewSubmitted by: Krystle RobinsonDennison, J.D. (1995). Values in the Canadian community college: Conflict and compromise in John D. Dennison (Ed), Challenge and opportunity: Canada’s colleges at the crossroads (pp.169-183). Vancouver, British Columbia: UBC Press. Exploring Values in the Context of the Community College The mission and mandate of most postsecondary institutions in Canada are deeply rootedin a set of values which underlie all organization policies and practices. Organizational valuesoften guide the decision making and planning process and attempt to solidify the purpose of whatan organization is trying to accomplish and why. In Dennison’s (1995) article Values in theCanadian Community College: Conflict and Compromise he examines the fundamental values ofsocial justice, competence, liberty and loyalty in the context of the community college. Hesuggests that these values are integral to colleges accomplishing their missions but that valueconflicts “plague” (p.169) the decision-making process and directly impact a college’s operation.This paper will examine the main points in Dennison’s article and discuss what implications theymay have for one’s professional teaching practice within the community college setting. In the first part of the article, Dennison argues that Burton Clark’s values in highereducation are applicable to the context of the community college. He states that these valuesshape organizational policies and practices and decision-making around the day-to-dayoperations. Dennison suggests that the “complexity of the college as a contemporary socialorganization” is largely attributed to value conflicts (p.169). He argues that values in Canadiancolleges have been largely influenced by the convergence of various social, political, economicand educational factors, as well as “governmental pressures” and values of other “societal
  2. 2. EDUC.1115 Foundations of Applied Educationgroups” (p.170). His argument is supported in Ghosh’s (1995) article, which also suggests thateducational institutions are social organizations “shaped by economic, social, political, culturaland historical forces” (p.3). Despite the diversity of forces “attempting to direct the college”,Dennison argues that the four fundamental values mentioned above are shared by society andexternal agencies. He argues that although these values are applied to universities, they’re veryapplicable in the college setting. In the next part of Dennison’s article, he defines the four values in the context of thecollege and again arguing that they “are in constant conflict” with each other (p.174). The firstvalue set of social justice is “concerned with equality/equity” with regards to policies andpractices affecting students, staff and the community at large (p.170). Dennison defines thesecond value set of competence as being related to “quality” in terms of programming and staffperformance (p.171). The third value of liberty is described as choice within the institution andDennison relates it to the idea of “academic freedom” (p.171). Lastly, Dennison defines loyaltyas being concerned with the “relationship between the institutions and their primary fundingsource” (p.172). Dennison emphasizes the fact that “when a college attempts to adhere toClark’s four value sets,” conflict or compromise arise as a result (p.175). He suggests that whilesocial justice is a predominant value a community college, it often compromises the value ofquality. Further, liberty and loyalty are in conflict with each other and sometimes are in conflictwith social justice and quality. He further states that value conflicts often hamper decisionmaking and progression in a community college. In the section to follow, Dennison suggests that through the use of value statements andcase studies, colleges may be better able to understand the “complexity of value conflicts” andidentify long-term resolutions that “will guide future action” (p.175). Dennison notes that value
  3. 3. EDUC.1115 Foundations of Applied Educationstatements provide clarity in understanding value conflicts and facilitate important conversationaround “attitudes towards policies which are fundamental to the operation of the college”(p.176). These conversations may draw attention to underlying issues, which may be the actualbarriers to colleges accomplishing “their missions” (p.181). Through the use of case studies,participants gain understanding of how “value sets converge” and how “to rationalize aresolution to the problem” (p.177). Dennison suggests these strategies are practical ways for anorganization to understand and work through challenges presented from value conflicts. The last part of the article examines how value sets differ between college and universitycultures. Dennison states that the value of social justice is less prominent in universities, whilethe value conflict of social justice and quality is an “ongoing issue” in the “college sector”(p.179). With consideration to the other values of liberty and loyalty Dennison notes that libertyis “a major source of debate” in Canadian community colleges because they have a “limiteddegree of autonomy”, as they attempt to remain loyal to both government bodies and communityneeds (p.180). A further source of difference is the emphasis on unity in the college setting,where “loyalty to the organization” comes before loyalty to “one’s discipline,” clearlydistinguishing a college from a university (p.180). Dennison concludes by suggesting that Clark’s four value sets are “not only applicable,but that they are also integral, to the policies and practices which colleges formulate toaccomplish their missions” and that knowledge of these values can allow for greaterunderstanding of an institutions purpose and priorities (p.181). As a college instructor, I willnow discuss how my teaching practice will be affected and why this information is beneficial. Dennison’s article provided a clear overview of the fundamental value sets found inhigher education. This overview was useful because it provided concrete examples of these
  4. 4. EDUC.1115 Foundations of Applied Educationvalues in practice and common examples of these values in conflict, which I have observedfirsthand without understanding “why” they happen. The article helped me understand thatorganizational conflicts may be largely attributed to value conflicts and that without properresolution, these conflicts can continue for a long time. Further, I learnt that these issues are notjust isolated to my organization but are prevalent in many Canadian colleges. The case studies also provided insight into complexity of the decision-making process incolleges. These examples were particularly relevant because they gave me understanding of howvalue conflicts may impact areas of my teaching practice such as academic freedom, studentselection and why colleges are limited in “what” and “how” they do business due theirresponsibility to external stakeholders. Of particular interest was the emphasis of unity incolleges. In my organization, it’s of utmost importance that the mission and mandate arereflected in our teaching practice. Dennison’s article clarified the reasoning behind this practiceand I have gained a better understanding of why it’s important in all community colleges. Dennison’s article has given me a thorough understanding of values and their role in thecollege community. It has made me reflect on my own personal values and attitudes as theyrelate to teaching and learning and have come to realization that they directly impact “how” and“what” I do in my teaching practice. The implications this has for future teaching practice is thatI will be considerate of not only my values but also the four values discussed in the article and becognizant of their influence over the decisions I make with respect to teaching. Further, I havegained an overall awareness of how values can shape an organization’s culture and the policiesor practices I am directly affected by. Lastly, the information in this article has given me anappreciation for the complexity of the decision-making process in my own organization and hasbetter prepared me for participation in this process in the future.
  5. 5. EDUC.1115 Foundations of Applied Education BibliographyGhosh, R. (1995). Social change and education in Canada (3rd ed). Toronto, Ontario: Harcourt Brace & Co.