Reflections on the Function of Content

Some reflections on the points raised by Weimer on the Function of Content in the classroom:

  • It seems that the goal of teaching especially at the higher education level must find its limit developing self-learners.  This especially must be true for graduate programs.  As students pursue graduate degrees, they are inherently moving toward positions of no longer being taught, but rather being the teachers.  They must be developing the skills to learn themselves or they will fail at this.  We can’t expect a switch to be flipped in people’s brains after they get their degree at which point they suddenly stop needing to be taught.  It seems obvious that self-learning should be the ultimate goal of our teaching methods.
  • I was struck by the tension between removing “content” from its pedestal in the university and facing the practical implications of “less” content.  Incremental change is needed but the next generation of professors (us) must start thinking about these things for the change to start at all.  We can’t go in like a bull in a china shop oblivious to the “political consequences” of our decisions regarding course content.
  • Reminded again of the learning center concept.  Do these exist at Virginia Tech?  I worked at a chemistry learning center as an undergraduate and found it a formative experience for me as a learner, in addition to helping many students.  Think about the power of engineering learning centers manned by volunteer (or paid?) upperclassmen or graduate students, helping answer questions for engineering courses.  Departments could set aside a dedicated study space with a desk for the learning center coach(es) on duty.  If no one has questions, so be it.  My guess is that this type of a set up would be well-used.  The chemistry centers at MTU surely were.
  • I really liked the idea of capturing the waning minutes of a class period by using a learner-centered exercise.  Individual or group summaries of the class content sound good to me.  With the ubiquity of smart phones and laptops, students could be regularly asked to email the professor their summaries in the last few minutes of class.  It would be a good assessment tool to see what may need to be covered in more detail or reviewed the next period.  One of my favorite professors here at VT keeps a detailed summary of key points, which he reviews briefly the next period.  This is a very helpful review and study tool for students.  I could see these two strategies pairing well together.

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