Broad and Deep Knowledge Revisited By Dean Cathy Sandeen

My last post focused on the importance of developing broad knowledge and capabilities (Four-Year Career).

In my further reading I have come across a number of ideas that reinforce this point.

Industrial Darwinism or “survival of the fittest industry”

The notion of “Industrial Darwinism” is reflected in this chart. Employment areas that are growing are likely to require higher-level thinking. (A perfect example: according to this analysis, “Think Tanks” are a small, but growing employment sector. Imagine that.)

Source:  imgur

Job Paradox

Then, there’s the notion of “Job Paradox” that the graph below reflects. Though these data end at 2010, the general trend continues today. Despite high unemployment, right now many positions remain open and unfilled. Certainly the current housing market makes it more difficult for people to sell homes in order to relocate. This may be a factor. But another factor may be that employers are keeping jobs unfilled because they are not finding applicants with the knowledge and abilities they seek. Something is not working.

Source:  The American

Liberal Arts Again

A fairly recent article in the Wall Street Journal  is a good example of conversation emerging in higher education circles. The article describes how business school faculty and administrators are considering how to integrate traditional liberal arts knowledge and skills (again, critical thinking, problems solving, synthesis, communication) into their undergraduate business curricula.

Vocationalization and Specialization

We hear a lot about the “vocationalization” of higher education.  We hear a lot about “return on investment” for degrees. Students and families want and deserve education that will lead to a good job. The prevailing assumption seems to be: the more vocational or skills-based a degree is, the more likely that will lead to employment. For evidence of this, one need only note the degrees that have growing enrollments (e.g., business and healthcare) and those that have declining enrollments (humanities).

Integration and Transdisciplinary

The opposite of vocationalization and specialization is integration and greater transdisciplinarity. In my own conversations with employers and community leaders in my urban area, I repeatedly hear a call for broader transdisciplinary skills. Crossing disciplinary boundaries can be a challenge. But we owe it to our students to move in this direction.

It’s not an “either/or.” We live in an increasingly complex, global, and technology-driven world. That is not going to change. We all need specialized skills for today as well as broader contextual, communication, and analytical skills to carry us through the career lifecycle. Broad and Deep.


2 responses to “Broad and Deep Knowledge Revisited By Dean Cathy Sandeen

  1. Cathy,

    Excellent follow-on piece to your first piece. I have encountered much over the last couple decades that continues to reaffirm this notion of broad-based learning. One executive recruiter mentions “mental agility.”. Others have called it “Continuous Improvement”. This all ties in to transdisciplinary learning, critical thinking and communication skills that you previously mentioned. This trend provides both threats to those who fear this continuous adaptation, but major opportunities for those willing to remain agile in their careers. I have been gathering pieces similar to this for my next book and would love to engage you further on these topics. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Pingback: The Other 40% by Dean Cathy Sandeen | Cathy Sandeen

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