12 comments on “What is the real purpose of school?

  1. I like the idea you mention here of how students are educated in a box. I think this changes in graduate school though, as, at least in our program, we’re given more freedom to explore things we’re interested in. Really the only rule we have when choosing a research topic or making a decision along the way is that we need to be able to justify those decisions. I enjoyed your post here!

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  2. I completely agree with you, Krystalyn. But I guess the question is how do we change undergrad or any school to make it more interesting? Do we offer more specialized classes? I think problem-based learning will go a long way, as real-world problems seem more interesting than sitting in a classroom reading a text book. Maybe we just need to make the education in childhood more interesting. I’m a little concerned if we “specialize” education too early in life, students will miss out on important aspects of general education. Thanks for sharing!

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    • I agree with you. I believe general education is important no matter what discipline the student is in. I just came back from a working trip on a very interesting University, they are a small liberal arts institution but they have an engineering school. Every student in the first years will be involved in general education with people from different majors, they are required to take all kind of classes like art, science, and even a sommelier class. These students develop different skills and this institution with this model is becoming the leader in south America.

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  3. All these forward-thinking, learner-centric, innovative classroom and education ideas we’re going over, learning about, experiencing – probably because of my current standing as a graduate student – I can see working in a graduate environment. I am still finding it difficult to see how these things can work with the massive amount of undergrads with varying degrees of motivation or desire to learn that permeate higher education. I agree with you when you say boxed-in education isn’t conducive to maximizing learning potential, and that focusing attention on individualizing learning techniques for each student is likely better than large lecturing, but I am having a difficult time wrapping my head around a professor teaching an undergrad lecture class of 900 students and addressing the needs of each on an individual level. Doing away with the mass class may be the answer and focusing on small classes, like we do in grad school where individualization is possible, is a neat idea, but I doubt we’ll be able to get administration, responsible for the hiring of thousands of new, qualified, and salaried/funded/contracted faculty and building enough small classroom space to accommodate, to sign off on it…..

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  4. I definitely can relate to your concern about innovation in graduate school. I also have a hard time to come up with authentic idea without any help from my adviser. You are right about the importance of interest and motivation, otherwise we won’t survive this procedure. However, as Aaron mentioned, there is trade-offs in learner-centered learning and lectures due to current mass amount of students. Godin’s idea is a big innovation, but we can work on some small innovations like how to improve learning under current university environment. Rome is not built in one day. We can make small progress every single day.

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  5. I totally agree with you on several fronts. One, I sadly have to admit that prior to college i was one of those students who did the bare minimum to just pass through from grade to grade and now reflecting back i realize that part of the reason what that we I was asked to conform to certain ways of learning (clearly was not the best for me”. Two, thinking outside the box is a great concept but i am not sure why some people (professors) are too afraid to let that happened (is it because they themselves don’t realize that there multiple ways of learning and the one they are using may not be the best one .. i don’t know) and Three the baseball analogy is a powerful one and i enjoyed what you wrote about textbooks and lack of innovation.

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  6. I find it really interesting that you touch on real learning once you arrived at graduate school. I experienced the same issues. I was in a topic study class where we were reading and analyzing academic papers. I was amazed by the students (3rd and 4th year Ph.D students) poking holes in other peer reviewed papers. Since I have been taught since birth that academia teaches you things while you sit in a seat until you are smart enough to stand in front of a class and teach it yourself. Once you are that smart, you write about it. Challenging others ideas and thoughts never crossed my mind. I resonate with you point.

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  7. Regarding some of the ideas in your last paragraph: while it is true that we need to create more engaging learning environments to motivate students, I also believe we must not abandon the value of discipline and effort in education. The feeling of accomplishment after a long stretch of hard work helps us gain confidence on oneselves. Personal growth is as important in education as expanding knowledge.

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  8. I would also agree that the only way to change the way students approach work, with respect to innovation, would be to change the way education is taught at a very early start in their academics (early grade school). I’m also sure that your last paragraph sums up what I would imagine most students encounter. For me, engineering is my career choice, but my most memorable courses were actually astronomy and cosmology (study of the evolution of the universe), neither of which are linked to my engineering career. These were the only courses I actually read the required readings, or engaged in fully outside of class. For me, what I need to learn to make money (engineering) is very different from what I actually enjoy learning (physics – astronomy, cosmology, etc).

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  9. Great post. I have had a similar experience with graduate school where I realized when I started that I was really incapable of generating my own creative unique thoughts. It felt totally bizarre and really scary. How did I get here and go through all that education without being able to think for myself? I agree, moving away from “cookie-cutter” education needs to start at a much younger age.

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  10. I totally agree with you! I also feel that I was not challenged enough to thinking outside the box during my undergraduate education. I feel like we need to link our undergraduate curriculum especially towards these new ideas of innovative thinking where we produce new generations of critical thinkers rather student taught to conform to the norm and be passive about the ideas presented before.

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  11. Good post! I’ve had similar thoughts. Why will someone memorize countless fictional characters with complicated names but not the material or process they need to implement in class. Is that drive to pursue something that makes them (myself included) passionate about something.

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