Higher Ed: How Do We Educate? The Wrong Way

If I could change one thing right now in Higher Education, it would be our educational model. Specifically, I think we absolutely need to, and must, move away from the banking model of education that tends to be the default throughout many of our disciplines.

In this model there are the folks with the knowledge and those without. The “haves” present the material to the “have-nots” and in doing so allow them to acquire something that they were lacking; this is obviously a deficit model.

However, in addition to being a deficit model it is also a one way street. The banking model is not reciprocal; it is students sitting in class viewing slide after slide being the receivers of information but never the givers. It is the professor being a sage on a stage as opposed to a guide on the side for the conversations. It is asking students to memorize formulas, facts, figures, and dates all so they can pass a test, entry exam, or do well enough on the SATs to get into the college they want to go to or, internationally, so they can get into a better secondary school.

To me, higher education that focuses on the banking model is more or less restricting the future of discovery, innovation, and learning for all involved. We can’t innovate if we are only taught to think one way; we can’t imagine if we’re too busy learning how to shove the imagination into a box in order to focus on the things that are real and testable. Yet some of our greatest achievements have happened from those who imagined and thought differently (or were on drugs…but I’m in favor of the non-drug induced imagination for various reasons).

As such, I think our educational system needs to change and radically so. One way is as follows:

  • First, let’s get rid of “instructors” and replace them with facilitators whose are trained to work with and guide students in the process of investigating various problems, questions, or issues. In fact, let’s fire around 80% of the current educators.
  • Second, let’s shift away from the individualistic tendencies that we have right now in both learning and teaching. Let us have the majority of work be done as group work (of course, if folks need to do it independently that’s okay too!) and when it comes to soliciting feedback peers are responsible for giving feedback to one another about not only their participation in the process but also the outcomes of the process.
  • There will still be feedback from the facilitators for both the groups and the individuals in the groups.
  • If we need to evaluate progress, let’s do it collaboratively. Let us make it a conversation among the facilitators and students using continuously revised goals, and hopes, that the student proposed to guide their own improvement.
  • And my most radical proposal that I am blatantly borrowing from something said by Naomi Zack: let’s redo the way a school day works. For example, in non-secondary education the day should include portions in which older students are responsible for facilitating groups of younger students and in which students of like ages/peer groups are responsible for facilitating conversations and lessons with one another. At levels of higher education, this could be instantiated by requiring and expecting that older students participate in the facilitation of younger students, mentor them, work with them, even as they work with one another and from those whom are older than they are.

Ultimately let us make the system of education in higher education more than even a two way street–it should be a web where all can learn, all can grow, and all are welcome to share their thoughts, experiences, and expertise in the project of learning with and from one another.


3 thoughts on “Higher Ed: How Do We Educate? The Wrong Way”

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog! It was very informative and some how mind opening. I like you mentioned that we should make higher education “a two way street.”

  2. Interesting. Learner-centered education, where students are placed in the center and the focus becomes on facilitating teaching procedures from which they can gain knowledge is important – as a substitute to the teacher-center where faculty teaching is merely involved with passing on their expertise-.

  3. You have brought together some ideas which collectively form a good strategy for democratizing education. In my recent experiences, I have seen the value in utilizing students as teachers, formally and informally. I have also had experiences with two youth age groups, 5-year olds and 12-year olds. When writing proposals for summer engineering camps, it has occurred to me that 12-year olds who have experienced engineering modeled for them by undergraduate students can then become the engineering role models for 5-year olds. I have written this idea into some unsuccessful proposals. Too radical, I guess! If it can work for youth camps, then why not use the peer model for education in general? I will keep plugging away at it. The first step is to convince the students, who are firmly entrenched in the banking model. My next radical idea is to find a classroom where there are sofas instead of desks so the students will interact with one another instead of hiding behind computers while they wait for me to instruct them.

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