Stars are aligned for “magnificent” change in education

Two of the world’s foremost experts in institutional change and education improvement came together in Vancouver recently in support of UBC’s Lasting Education, Achieved and Demonstrated (LEAD) Initiative.

John Kotter, Harvard business professor emeritus and best-selling author, and Carl Wieman, Nobel Laureate and director of the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (CWSEI), spoke to faculty, students and friends of UBC on June 25 about the urgency and why now is the time to make a transformative change in undergraduate education.

“Evidence shows that the university lecture hall model isn’t very effective in helping students acquire a full range of skills they need to really thrive in the 21st century, and in turn provide all the benefits to society that comes from having a populace of well-educated citizens,” said Wieman.

“The vision for CWSEI and LEAD is to bring about teaching that’s not only effective for the students but is more meaningful and efficient use of the time for the teachers.”

Kotter, a member of LEAD’s International Leaders Alliance of advisors, explained why he chose to get involved with the initiative.

“I’m here because I think this could be one of those rare times in life when the stars come together to produce something that flashes in an improbable but magnificent way,” said Kotter.

“The stars start with this unusual, dedicated, superb teacher who also happens to be a Nobel Laureate, colliding with a university president who is showing clear signs through his actions that he wants to do something important on university education. At the same time our knowledge about institutional change has significantly increased and our knowledge about what constitutes a better model for education comes along.”

President Stephen Toope, who hosted the event with Lorne Whitehead, UBC’s University Leader of Education Innovation, says in countries like India and China, where resources in university education are far less concentrated, there is a palpable sense of urgency and excitement about improving the way we learn. It’s time for Canada and the rest of the Western world to step up to the plate.

“We’re not currently doing what we could do to help our students succeed as they should and the implication is that our society can’t succeed as it should,” said Toope.

“I think LEAD is extremely ambitious but together we have an opportunity to do something that would have an impact not just here, but far beyond the borders of British Columbia and Canada.”

For the complete video of LEADing change in education: A conversation with John Kotter and Carl Wieman, visit