I find our current standard teaching system and learning environment both counterproductive and mind numbing. Our world (e.g., culture, environment, and technology) has changed drastically in the last 1000 years, yet it appears that our typical classrooms got stuck in that era. Currently, there is a person in the front of the classroom delivering information or “important facts” to a group of people, students, facing that person to “receive knowledge”. Yes, it sounds like ancient times in monasteries of the catholic church, where there was a lector, of course reading a lesson or “important facts”, in a room with the best acoustics so the audience could hear well (remember, no electricity back then).
Information is no longer transcribed and no longer kept in monasteries. Much has happened particularly in the last 200 years; printing became available, many libraries are public, science is done outside of religious affiliations, information is shared in public media, nowadays most of the world can access the internet, most people have personal electronic devices, or can access a public one, to search information with in seconds. Then, why are we using the same “teaching” strategy today?
Limited access to information in the past determined that people needed skills to memorize facts; so a person with those skills where considered smart and “knowledgeable”. Our current teaching model still makes emphasis on memorization, whether it is for a test, or just because that is the way that our instructors learned the topic. Now, we have access to vast amounts of information that are impossible to memorize, therefore the skills that we need to develop today are related to critical thinking and creativity to facilitate learning in our students. Then, why are we using the same “teaching” strategy today?
The environment in which any biological activity happens is a limiting factor that determines an outcome, and learning is not an exception here. As acoustics where really important in those auditoriums back in the monasteries for other monks to acquire information; today we need to use different environments to engage our students in the learning process. Our societies have widely adopted digital technology and we can use that technology to develop learning exercises. These learning exercises should stimulate students to explore information, share it with the class and the world. However, these learning exercises require to break the traditional layout of a classroom. Instead, an engaging environment requires multiple projectors, not only for the typical lecture slide show, but also for students to connect their own devices to share with the class what they have just created or new information they just found. Perfectly arranged students seats are a big NO. Instead easy to move tables are ideal to rearrange the space as different activities demand. Then, why are we using the same “teaching” strategy today?
In conclusion, we are not the same as we were 1000 years ago and that includes our students. Then, why do we complain about what is wrong with our students today? Well, instructors teaching in an ancient format might be what it is wrong with our students today.