Reflection on a Reflection

It’s always nice to know that you are not alone in your thoughts and thanks to the Internet realizing this has become much easier. In fact I would probably say 98% of the reason I am obsessed with CSI is because of Internet fandom, but that is another point altogether (the dork in me just likes making CSI references). So while I was obsessively checking Bloglines I read a post by Steve.

He talked about the ways college education limits itself :

“One thing that seems clear to me about this revolution in digital tools is that it should help change the focus of higher education (and by that I mean the unit of measure, the way instructors and students view their roles) from courses to individual students. We’ve played lip service for quite a long time to the notion that universities educate students individually, that each student has their own set of courses they study (think transcript), but below the level of the course, it’s been all the same. Each student in a given course faces the same set of expectations and assignments. What they make of them can differ, of course.”

Speaking from a perspective of a student this is exactly what I realized about midway through my first semester. When I came to college I was excited about all the freedom and the possibility of navigating my future. It is true I can control these major details (such as my major) but the minor details (classes in terms of how they are presented and such) are really beyond my realm of control. The problem is the minor details are what I have to deal with on a daily basis and are what fills up the majority of my time. The majority of my classes are not mentally stifling and nauseatingly boring, but take away some of the “big words” the professors use and add some in-class worksheets and I could be back in high school. Of course college-level courses are more challenging and go more in depth than high school but sometimes I feel there is something missing. It is true the classes I am taking are intro-level courses with several of them having big class sizes so I may be a little biased in my perspective. Although just because I am dealing with intro level shouldn’t mean that I am not entitled to have an “exciting” or personal educational experience albeit it is a little more difficult to accomplish.

In his post he also stated:

“Increasingly I’ve tried to teach students as individuals where they are. What that means is that, to the extent I can, I expect different things of different students. I try to push all my students, but differentially based on their experience to date. In seminars I give stronger students more challenging readings, or I give students with certain backgrounds readings that draw on those areas. In my research methodology course, I push more experienced students to pursue more advanced research projects. Does this mean I expect less of weaker students? In a sense it does, though I try not to characterize students as stronger or weaker per se, but as having different strengths and weaknesses.”

I’ve felt this is the way education should be done for awhile now and maybe subconsciously for a long time. Of course as with any new idea their is opposition to it and with this style of teaching I could see a few coming up. One problem that came to mind was that students would/could assume the professor “plays favorites”. This is obviously not the goal of any professor (at least I hope not), but I could see people easily misconstruing this, especially if they received an unfavorable grade. Not that students haven’t ever complained of favoritism in the past, but it is just one possibility the almost immediately popped into my head. Although I would hope by the time students were juniors and seniors they would understand and be less concerned with what other people were doing and more focused on their own education. Then of course there is that age old problem of teaching those who don’t want to learn or be in charge of their own education, but I don’t really have much experience in that department, just experience being around those types of students.

There are many good things about it though and I don’t want to sound like the pessimistic nay-sayer because there are many more right things with this then there are problems. It helps promote a personalized education in a sea of verbatim regurgitation. Even the professors get something out of this by have the opportunity to learn from what a student has researched. This does require a great deal of responsibility on the students part to make something of it. I read in The Bullet that the curriculum was going under revision and that one of the possibilities would be to change the maximum allowed classes to 4 so that students could focus more. At first I didn’t really like this idea because I am indecisive and I have been trying out all sorts of classes to find something that works for me. If students only took 4 classes this could help promote students taking education into their own hands. It could also lead to too much free time and more partying, but I remain optimistic that not all students are in college to get their degree in partying with a concentration in drinking.

Of course all this is just a freshman perspective and I have no idea what goes on at those “secret” education conventions that teachers go to to plot against their students do whatever it is they do there.


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