EDEV_506 Week 1_5

I read with interest your idea that much in choice of staff contract is related to path dependency. This idea was new to me and got me thinking about how an organisation’s conditions of incorporation influence decisions later on. In particular, the related concept of imprinting  (Marquis & Tilcsik, 2013) offers many possibilities for analysis of HE systems. Briefly imprinting refers to;

“(1) brief sensitive periods of transition during which the focal entity exhibits high susceptibility to external influences; (2) a process whereby the focal entity comes to reflect elements of its environment during a sensitive period; and (3) the persistence of imprints despite subsequent environmental changes” (Marquis & Tilcsik, 2013, p. 197).

I tell my students the story of Chesterton’s Fence; the idea that we “don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up” (Kamisar, 2012, p. 966). Often regulations can appear confusing or even confused, and history can reveal much about current systems. And with that information, forecasts for the future might be slightly more accurate.

A case from my institution highlighted an aspect of this to me recently. Prior to taking up my new post in April, I had expended a lot of energy in creating differentiated instruction (DI) classes where I could teach topics at multiple levels semi-simultaneously (Subban, 2006). My new students were perplexed by this choice in the early weeks in April, so I asked an experience colleague about the use of DI in this school. He told me to forget about doing it. But this is good educational practice, I responded. It may well be, his reply was, but this university was set up to cater to the elite in the prefecture. I should teach at the highest appropriate level and allow the lower level students to fail. By doing this, I would attract only those students who can benefit from my style and type of tuition. Over some months and years, I would develop a following of those elite students who match me. Other teachers do the same and the founding principle of disciple and master is maintained. It produces the best graduate—I was told. No student fails to find their master, and unless the lowering numbers of 18-year-olds in Japan reduces to such a level where we need to enrol weak students, there is no problem. Counter-intuitive to me at least.


Kamisar, Y. (2012). The rise, decline, and fall (?) of Miranda. Washington Law Review, 87, 965–1040.

Marquis, C., & Tilcsik, A. (2013). Imprinting: Toward a Multilevel Theory. The Academy of Management Annals, 7(1), 195–245. doi:Doi 10.1080/19416520.2013.766076

Subban, P. (2006). Differentiated instruction: A research basis. International Education Journal, 7(7), 935–947. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2006.04074.x

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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