PROCESS POST: Comprehensive plans vs. Campus master plans #PedagogicalMasterPlanning

It was the presence of this mysterious thing called a campus master plan that first sparked my interest. In 1996, as the new director of transportation for Virginia Tech, I was wrestling with the increasing demand for parking spaces. I wanted to know if the university had formally stated a priority for specific modes of transportation (pedestrian, bicyclist, transit or car) and was pleased to discover this issue was addressed in the university’s master plan. At the same time I was surprised to see some obvious differences between the campus master plan and the scope and content of the adjacent town’s comprehensive plan (Blacksburg, VA). Being also new to working at universities I had assumed, erroneously, that master plans were merely comprehensive plans for campuses. My knowledge of comprehensive plans led me to believe they had been sufficiently refined over the years to adequately meet the needs of their communities. As I looked at past master plans at Virginia Tech and then master plans at other universities I realized the documents varied widely in scope, content, purpose, and intent. It was the difference in the documents that caused me to wonder what was in a campus master plan.

– from Steven Lou Mouras, 2004 white paper

I am awed by this sentence: “I wanted to know if the university had formally stated a priority for specific modes of transportation (pedestrian, bicyclist, transit or car) and was pleased to discover this issue was addressed in the university’s master plan.” All from a curiosity about parking spaces, of all things.

Aren’t schools, at least some, formally stating preferences for certain types of instruction and learning? Project-based learning. Formative assessment. Gamification. Design-thinking. Achieving the 6Cs of 21st century skills. (Certainly these are at least as important as parking spaces!)

But how are these schools developing and designing the plans that will coordinate and collectivize these complex systems of interrelated methods and approaches? Are any organizations actually making tangible, viewable plans so that a community of learners can point at a set of “architectural renderings” and realize that all…many…some…few are on the same page, the same sheet of music? How might we create methods for constructing such designs in ways that make specific the strategies, tactics, and capacity-building exercises required to successfully innovate such incubator ideas and experiments?

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