Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Maybe this is a RANT...

So I was reading the cover story in this weeks Chronicle of Higher Education about why teaching is not the number one priority at institutions of Higher Education and it struck me that there is a whole lot missing from this and other media coverage of this topic. Having taught now at two institutions of higher education that do put teaching at the top of the priorities for faculty, I have some major concerns about how we define good or great teaching. As someone who believes in Action Teaching, Action Learning, and Action research I do not always win popularity contests with students who are expecting a lecture and exam model of college classes. As someone who makes mindful choices about my pedagogy and often selects critical and feminist pedagogy over anything close to traditional classroom structure it is not uncommon for me to have students feel off-balance for part of the semester, especially when they are asked to be agents in their own education. Having proven in two empirical studies that my students were learning as much or more in a general education class then students in the same class taught by an award winning professor who lectures and gives exams I wonder what it really is that we hope from higher education. I hope that colleges and universities are a place for critical and creative thinking. I hope that institutions of higher education are about expanding students and faculty horizons. I think and hope that Colleges and Universities are about creating thoughtful, well rounded, and innovative citizens. As an Educational Psychologist I have no problems with appropriate and dare I say authentic assessments of higher education, but I strongly disagree with standardizing higher education in terms of curriculum or assessments. If I happen to be teaching the "same" class as a colleague and their goal is to make sure the students memorize certain facts for an exam and my goal is to transform them as human beings, how in the world could we assess the two sections using the same metric. Many who are seeking more standardization and assessment of higher education would be more comfortable with my colleagues goals around concrete measurable outcomes, but I would argue that higher education at its best has the potential to transform the world we live in. So I hope there are enough of us who are passionate and idealistic enough still left in higher education to fight for the meta-level of powerful institutions of higher education that are driven by a dedication to transform lives and less about cranking out cogs for some metaphoric job market. Again I sign off by saying we need to be the change we want to be in this world (Ghandi) and I for one of dedicated to being a change agent who believes in the transformational power of education at all levels.

1 comment:

  1. Love your new blog! Keep it up! I am guessing from how you've described your educational philosophy so far that you would be a proponent of constructivism and/or project-based learning. You have probably read Bonnie Shapiro's "What Children Bring to Light" and are familiar with Vygotsky already; if not, I recommend both. Wish more people would embrace your way of teaching openly; I know many teachers I have spoken with who agree with you in principle but are afraid to "rock the boat" by rejecting standardized curricula.