Tuesday, August 28, 2012

We talk too much

It's not that I'm opposed to conversation; I thrive on razor-sharp dialog, lightening-quick humor, and premise-challenging interactions.  What I want to stop is the habit of lecturing that we've somehow substituted for teaching.

My semester is off and running and I am reminded (yet again) how much I enjoy the craft and calling of teaching...and how frustrated I am by the myriad forces that have created an increase in the size and number of lecture courses.  I am one of the fortunate ones, afforded the opportunity to work with smaller, specialized  undergraduate classes and the ubiquitously-diligent graduate classes.  Even there, however, the method of teaching is not always ideal, as noted by one of the exiting graduate students this summer:
There was no course in the MMBA program (where) we were able to get one-on-one or even group interaction with a professor.
This bothers me, as an educator, as the parent of a near-college-age student, and as a citizen.  The advent of classrooms and schools rather than individual or small-group interaction (think "Socratic method") were an attempt to be efficient and effective in educating more people more quickly.  Good idea.  Good intention.  Mediocre implementation, taken as a whole.

This is on my mind, of late, due to the steadily growing body of data that indicates we have a better way to educate--one that is efficient, effective, and replicates many of the best aspects of the mentor, the dialog, the one-on-one.  But don't take my word for it. Listen to Daphne Koller, who has enough academic credentials and research experience to be more than credible when she says:
We should spend less time at universities filling our student's minds with content by lecturing them, and more time igniting their actually talking with them.

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