http://www.dangoldberg.net/googlef0d66cc0ba5ccabc.html
 
I'm a teacher. More specifically a university professor (as well as a keynote speaker, trainer and personal coach). Through my years of doing all these things, I've noticed something interesting...especially in higher education - the emphasis is on teaching, rather than learning.

Yes, I know that it's supposed to be the other way around, but it's not. The system has been set up so that students are motivated to get a degree, that's pretty much it. Learning doesn't always fall within that dimension. If you can pass your tests and do well in your research papers, you've done what you're supposed to do. What does that, ultimately, do for a person's mind? Not much, actually. I know how tests work, I've been administering them for years (and took them for years too). Memorize facts and figures, and on test day...be able to regurgitate them with precision. Three days later - those bits of information are pretty much forgotten. Papers? All too often they're sent through the academic sausage maker, cut and pasted, re-worded, and voila...a new brand of sausage emerges - cited and all!

The system is flawed. We live in the age of google and other search engines. Sure, you've gotta know which facts to take as true and which to disregard. But, who's to say that the books students are asked to buy for use in their classes are accurate? And - I write 'em! Need a fact? Look it up on your computer. Not sure about a formula? It's online. Suck at grammar? Your electronic device can help with that too.

Know how to think? Ehh...that's another matter. And, my friends - that's what we should be concentrating on. Teach people to think and use they're cognitive abilities and they will learn! Are we dumbing ourselves down in order to play the degree game? Hmm...I think we may be.

However, there are a few (other) sad pieces to this puzzle. First, by the time students graduate - they've become slaves. Yes, I said slaves. No, not the kind owned by someone who houses and feeds them, then sends them out into the field to plant or harvest crops. Nope...I mean a slave to the banks and loan agencies that helped "fund" their education. And the crazy part is that these slaves have to house and feed themselves! What an amazing world we live in!

The second piece is that we are closing our minds to the rest of what is around us. People are caught. Get a degree, get a job, pay back loans and more loans, get stressed, get sick, get health insurance, get medication, and on and on. You see, for many students, the cognitive thought process never has a chance to fully grow because they have to find a job as soon as possible (any job will do!) to begin to pay off their debt. Oh, the cycle of it all.

The alternative? Recognize that it's all a game - a mental construct - and when you get that, maybe you can change your perspective and take time to look around and think, laugh, experience, love, pull yourself out of the cycle (or not get into it in the first place), and mellow out a bit. Then, I think...you can really start to learn.

So...perhaps we can begin to change the way we educate by taking the emphasis off of tests, research papers, and grading, and putting the focus on learning. Of course, there are those who will say, "How do you know if someone's learning if you can't grade them through tests and research papers?" I have a solution (at least that's what I think). How 'bout teachers speak with their students, have open dialogue, stimulate their minds, get feedback (in fact...encourage it!), do fun, innovative, individual and group projects, even thought provoking papers (some of them may even need some research to substantiate a point or two), and listen to them. Most "good" teachers can tell who's learning and who's not.

I know it all sounds like a tall order, but - it can be done. Plus...make school very affordable. I know that we'll have to get creative, as a nation, when it comes to funding (perhaps a few less bombs, aircraft carriers, jets, or "special projects" could help fund our educational efforts). But, in the end...I'm sure it'll pay off!

What's the most important resource any country has? Its people - of course! Let's make sure our people know how to think. That may not be what some folks in power want. However, in the end, it'll make for a more educated and stimulated populace and a better, more innovative, world. Geez - wouldn't that be nice!


Danielle Gallagher
3/8/2012 06:35:12 am

As both a student and a student teacher I know both sides at the moment. I look at teachers from the student point of view and some I see as motivators and I learn a lot because they feed great information. Most of the time as a student I go to class of course to get an A but also to listen and be able to take in new information in order to open it up to other people. To be perfectly honest most of the information that I remember comes from communication and not through testing. Also, you cannot teach students thinking that they should already know the information (or else they would not be taking your course). Depending on the material you need to take a step back and know the limits to which you teach information. If students get the feeling that they don’t know enough and the teacher portrays this then the teacher has not succeeded. As being a student teacher I have students in my current major, Accounting, who I teach Principals I. I feel as though it is my duty to let them know that they are not alone if they get confused with information. Students might not know the information at the snap of a finger so if you let them know just to relax, ask questions, and communicate with them at their level then you can teach them a lot more. So I would just say education doesn’t come from tests, quizzes, and finals. It comes from gaining information from someone who takes on a leadership role which one can now call a professor.

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Dan
3/8/2012 06:43:15 am

Excellent points Danielle!

Yes...teachers should, indeed, "take a step back," understand the environment in which they are teaching, and make sure that all students are grasping the information. If not, ask why. Also...encouraging dialogue should make it easier for students to feel free to express themselves about what they are, and are not, learning.

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Moulik Patel
3/13/2012 04:06:47 am

There are many points you make that catch my attention professor. However, there are two in particular. Teaching versus learning and also students not using their cognitive abilities to the best they can. Firstly, I often realize that many professors teach are so caught up into their own teaching process (PowerPoint notes in class, [maybe a] small discussion, then in the following weeks, tests), that they indirectly ignore the fact that students actually may not have learned the material. I understand testing has become one of the most used methods of grading students, however, this is taking away from their ability to actually learn something and keep it in their minds forever, as opposed to forgetting the material covered in their classes. As a student, I often feel very pressured and focused on studying for tests, that I simply start memorizing my notes. This memorization does not help me learn because I know for a fact that I will forget majority of the information. However, sometimes I feel like I have no choice because "the goal" is to get an excellent grade on my tests/exams.

This leads straight into my second point. By not being able to actually think and learn my material, I am injustice to my cognitive abilities. I feel like many students are on the same page as me, as you yourself have noted this issue. The process of thinking is slowly fading away because of the emphasis of education being put on the wrong aspects of learning (good grades, honor roll, trying to get a good job with these excellent grades, etc.).

I definitely agree with your solution and I hope to see that one day our country and its education system sees that the solution you have given is the way to have more educated and confident people in this country!

Reply
Dan
3/13/2012 04:23:07 am

Moulik,

You've grasped my point from a student's perspective. It's always interesting for me to hear the "customers" of the system voice their opinions. Hopefully...you are learning, even through the maze of tests and other teaching/grading elements that may be barriers put in your way towards reaching the intellectual core of education.

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Moulik Patel
3/13/2012 08:41:31 am

This is one class where I feel like I'm actually learning and probably going to remember the material discussed in this class. I really enjoy the movies and discussions that we have, enabling us to interact with each other, including you. This is one class I will definitely remember. I actually talk about some of this material outside of class to my family and friends if something catches my attention!

Reply
Dan
3/14/2012 10:33:37 am

Moulik,

Thanks so much for your kind words. I'm happy that the class is having a positive impact and causing you to think about the topics we discuss. That's what education (at least to me) should be about.




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