Saturday, 30 July 2011

Refocusing Education

One of my concerns is that education is becoming a certification process. Some do learn but not all. Some are just concerned about getting the grade. as I write this, I am thinking of a project student who was really looking at how to get the grade for their project rather than the learning that is needed. Somewhere we need to move these students from a focus on grades to a focus on learning. Grading techniques need to be designed to encourage this shift in focus. However, changing grading techniques doesn't fully solve the problem.

I am sure most lecturers would contend that the focus is on building knowledge and understanding. Assessment and grading are tools for verifying progress.

The time limit to learning and assessment change the emphasis to how to pass rather than on the quantity or depth of learning. What would happen if the time limit was removed and the learner could take as long as needed. Some learners may see thus as licence to waste time so there will need to be some checks on progress. No or insufficient progress should see the learner excluded from the course. Linking grade to the time it takes to learn to the required depth would also add some pressure for the student to focus on learning although some will try and find ways to get the grades without doing the learning.

It would be desirable to be delivering education to those who are interested in learning rather than grades. We do have some who fall into this category. They tend to pursue knowledge beyond requirements of the course. They ask questions to gain deeper understanding rather than just completing the required exercises.

In terms of my own involvement, it would be good to move away from the university context and to work with those who are interested in learning.

I am not convinced that using short term contract labour in introductory courses helps build the consistency that is needed. What ensures that the courses remain static is the use of past students as demonstrators and tutors. In some ways this is like maintaining the oral history or tradition. The tutors and demonstrators tend to critique and question if the lecturer should move away from how they believe the course should be taught. If the lecturer changes then the consistency remains through the tutors and demonstrators.

If change in the approach to teaching was to occur then the consistency has to be from the lecturer. Without this consistency, there can be no change in the direction of the course.

A tutor stated that he believes students see the real learning occurring in tutorials and in the labs with the demonstrators. Lectures are a necessary evil. They don't see them as having relevance. Admittedly the strategies that I have suggested earlier would require a change away from the normal lecture approach. If students are at different stages of learning then a lecture sequence that tries to maintain a regular pace doesn't make sense, The question is what do you put in place instead?

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