Published on 2012/02/15

All too often, our educational system forces students into standardization and memorization, leaving their creativity and passion for learning locked away. Photo by Monik Markus

I believe that our Educational system is flawed and that it’s going to take dialogue, time and willingness of mind to change it.

I would begin with the elimination of testing as the only means to determine our desired outcomes. I’m not suggesting that testing can’t be used as an indicator, but it would only be one indicator. I would want to know that our students have learned what was taught and are prepared for a continual lifelong learning after they leave the classroom. This can be accomplished by making learning fun and challenging for students, not a chore and something they do to get a grade. We can create a learning environment that would foster participation, engagement, and healthy dialogues by spending time with students inside and outside the classroom, attending students’ functions, being visible on campus to ensure these desired outcomes.

It is crucial that students feel they are in a healthy and conducive environment for learning. Some ways of doing this are setting the tone and expectations of our students the minute they enter class; by stressing the importance of learning rather than regurgitation, and by asking what it is that they want to learn from the class, and ask what the difference between teaching and learning is. Secondly, it is also important to treat students as adults… although professors are in charge of the curriculum, it’s important that they let students know that they can learn from them too. Consider letting groups teach class.

Learning can be fun for most students once they know their growth and development is just as important as getting an A. Some methods that can be used to assess learning in group projects, oral/written presentation, once a week without notice, and a spontaneous 10 minute of free writing about lifelong learning experience. To test their skill level, ask a controversial question, collect the responses at the beginning of the semester, and ask that same question at the end of the semester and compare their responses.

Students need to be encouraged and feel good about their progress. They need to feel safe to express their ideas and not be penalized if their ideas and thoughts are different than that of the professor or their peers. All too often, some of the best ideas and thoughts remain locked inside of our students because the environment isn’t conducive for them to express themselves.

Until educators realize that just because we can test and receive a successful outcome; it doesn’t mean that we’ve done our job to foster learning, it could mean that some students test well and it could also mean the beginning inputs were the cause of their outputs. The question that should resonate for each professor should be how much did students really learned from their class verses how much did they already knew?

The world around us has changed from forty years ago. We are living in an ever changing technological age, and yet, students are expected to learn the same as forty years ago? Why is it that most professors insist upon teaching exactly the same way with the expectations that students can be taught and learn the same way? Just as the world has changed, so have the ways to teach and learn changed (i.e., Twitter, Face book, Moodle, Skype, YouTube). Students are so adaptable …they think differently and look at the world differently. We have to change our strategy about the way we educate and test for learning. We don’t have to do it the way we’ve always done it. It is incumbent upon higher education to challenge our students to think by whatever means necessary.

The outcomes of teaching and learning cannot be totally determined by testing alone. There are some outcomes a test cannot adequately reveal; the passion for learning, when the light bulb comes on, the awesome discovery of learning. I just want higher education to care about the total student and to value learning and teaching—to value students’ gifts, talents and thoughts and provoke learning. I want our students to be able to compete globally based upon their learning, not memorization. I want our students to be able to think, to be articulate and bright intellectuals with wit and charm and to be well-rounded about life. I want them to have a clear understanding once they leave us. They should leave us feeling excited about what they’ve learned and looking forward to build upon it with excitement.

Learning is a lifelong, exciting process and if we’ve done our job right; they will leave knowing that they got what they came for. And although they would‘ve learned a great deal from research and books; they can also continue to learn from diverse thoughts and ideas of others….and that’s okay because learning is lifelong!

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Readers Comments

Phil Jackson 2012/02/14 at 11:06 am

I 100% agree with you. How can we possibly understand a students’ real capacities and capabilities if we’re constantly pigeon-holing them into sections we see as acceptable.

If we want learners to truly grow and succeed, we must remove the shackles that we confine them with

Rob Krown 2012/02/14 at 6:00 pm

What I find especially incongruent about the testing model, is how poorly it applies to the real world. Students want applicable skills and test performance certainly isn’t one of them. In most industries, work is done in a collaborative, researched and iterative way. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what happened if students came out of school already prepared with experience in this type of working environment.

Mandy 2012/03/02 at 1:55 pm

What is exciting is the aenrnilg journey itself! We have gathered a group of enthusiastic teachers and their students to join in a collaborative journey together. We have gained momentum through each other’s enthusiasm to embrace the challenge, How to learn and teach using a new technology the iPad 2 .I think that we will discover a way to create authentic aenrnilg experiences using an electronic pencil. It is the new tool of the classroom and we are discovering together the educational applications as well as the artistic creativity of this tool. It’s capabilities are endless and we will engage students because it is something children like to play with. We may not want to call it a toy but we are playing with technology. Not just entertaining ourselves but mindful development of aenrnilg outside the box.It creates excitement in all of us because it is aenrnilg to use a modern machine which an adult has developed and children learn to use it by playing with it. Adults like to play too!We are throwing our group into the cyber sandbox. We won’t have much time for entertainment! This is entertainment we will be busy aenrnilg to find apps, creating ePubs, accessing information, posting, tweeting, blogging and more! Enjoy the journey and drive away with us!

Frank Palatnick 2012/03/11 at 4:41 pm

I was asked to give a speech in a English Lit. class in Hunter College, New York. Upon entering the class that day, I found out that the class was given an essay to write at the beginning of the term concerning three authors. In the beginning of the class, she, the professor, asked various students what they wrote about. Two of those students said they wrote the essay using their own words, but not using the author’s. She, in front of the whole class, began to laugh, which caused the other students to laugh as well. When it came time to give my speech, I immediately stood up and pointed to the two students and said to them ” I will sit down. Each one of you will will read out loud your own report in my place. And no matter what the professor does you will continue to read until both of you are finished. You are a valued individual who is more important than anyone in this school including me. You are not to be laughed at by the teacher or anyone else. “. After each of them had read his report, the class stood up and clapped. Without saying a word to the teacher, I left. Both students came running into the hallway to approach me and said ” Thank You ” I found out later that the class wrote a note to the Dean to ask for my return to give my speech. The teacher never contacted me again.

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