Because You Can Be Someone!

So we have this problem, that many more students are coming into higher education, and the face of higher education is changing such that students don’t have to work as hard and resultantly aren’t actually acquiring the skills that we anecdotally believe emerge with a degree.

So, I think the best question we can ask, is what can be done?

In our recent introductory seminar, we were given a list of 25 different cognitive principles that guide learning. Idea’s such as the testing effect, that using multiple tests is better for memory than a single test. Or desirable difficulties, an invaluable principle that says we learn from being stretched, not molly-coddled. This idea of desirable difficulties I especially like, because the same principles applies to exercise. If we don’t strengthen our muscles through pushing them to breaking point, they will never get stronger.

What will these interventions do? Will they boost remembering? Or learning? Or is there a clever balance between both?

I am becoming a big believer in the idea, that if a computer can do it, it shouldn’t be a part of higher ed. So to me, simply storing information in our brains ought not be the point of coming to university. As I pondered over what learning really means, I formed these four categories:

  • Novel thought/talent
  • Application
  • Knowledge
  • Excitement

While its moral orientation is questionable, the British empire’s strength came from individuals who used some intuition to go out and do something. Without needing to phone home. Without bureaucracy and regulation. People were trusted to go out and better the empires situation. At least from England’s perspective.

One of the challenges we face is simply making our graduates useful to employers. I believe the principles of Imperialism apply to this situation. University needs to teach people to thrive in industry, regardless of what that industry is.

I was in an ethics lecture a few weeks back, and it tore me apart to see people by-and-large answering questions of what constitutes ethical conduct based on words the university had put into their mouths over the last 18 months. I shook the boat by saying I considered it foolish to give a person a 3 page consent form for an fMRI scan, because noone will likely read all of the information, and therefore it doesn’t fulfil it’s purpose. I truly believe that there would be a better way to obtain informed consent.

We need to develop a system that breeds enthusiasm to bettering the given field of work, knowledge of how that field works, the ability to competently do and fulfil the roles of that field, and those will be the foundation of novel thought.

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