Why we need a why?

See the course page!

My Why (blog post)

Problem with higher education

Best class the ever taught:

  • Randy Bass: future of university as design problem. Students made their own university plans. They became fearless for revision.
  • Cathy: 21st century literacies. Learning contract on class turned into a book. Final project on a MOOC course produced a collection of writings.
  • Mike Welsh: methods in anthropology. Students moved to elderly community.

Concerning visions of higher education:

  • Might be premature. MOOCs show there is interest.
  • We need to be meaningful and relevant to save the universities from being replaced by computers.
  • Money is a problem.
  • We have not done a good job to justify what we do.

How to discover the purpose of teaching:

  • Help students understand why you are interested in your subject.
  • Difficulty makes things interesting. Experts love uncertainty.
  • Parents spending 7000 dollars more money to motivate their children. Elite private institutions spend 20 times more on college students interest sparking.
  • Purpose driven course vs. content driven course?
o   Flashcard, write purpose fast on, groups discuss, find the most important one
o   Professor is not usually authentic audience for the student’s work.
o   Accountable thought and talk brings stakes up for students

Connected courses social contracts:

  • Open public Google dock – > make it into own contract
  • Balance between structure and freedom
  • DS106 is a model for creating spaces for people to find their authentic selves

Assessment and feedback:

  • Narrative
  • Analytics
  • Open badging (never mark negative, earn the badges)
  • There is room in normal grading system.


Academically Adrift & Aspiring Adults Adrift

Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, the writers, are involved in making differences in policies and practices.

Study on student learning at 2yrs and 4yrs started the books. They got interested in what do students actually learn. Key findings included students own experiences: very little time spent on their studies and facing limited demands on their intellect, lower reading and writing amounts required. In follow-up it seemed students were struggling with financial assistance from parents 2 years after graduating. Civic engagement was also low.

Academic rigor pays off in critical thinking, reading and writing. They are carried out to work life. Structured interactions with peers and others is helpful. Adding purpose to education leads to success academically and after school. Communicating the purpose of general education to students is important. Critical thinking, analysis, and writing are desired by employers in labor market.

Universities should use academics in-line with student interest in marketing instead of just social activity. Socialization should be connected to deep learning. Technology can decrease the workload involved in bringing people and communities together even in academic setting. Rigor can mean bringing the necessary tools for students to reach the required levels. Demonstrating gains instead of reaching certain level. Rigor does not mean giving a lot of Ds and Fs. Faculty is not typically trained to use technology to improve their teaching.

Use of assessments on teachers and learning outcomes can be scary when data is used for other things than improving courses. Earning after graduation are not really a good metric for college success. High school experience and its harshness aims for admission and students are burning out. Students’ purpose is to get to college and then they party and relax after huge amount of work. The optimism of post graduates could come from low rigor in college showing them success comes for no work at all.


Capturing and describing the why of connected courses

Bill Penuel assessed kids on taking part in activities, role taking and making a difference in community. Vera Michalchik was interested in learning on personal level: how the individual experienced the learning. She noted how the purpose of institution affects the learning outcomes and experiences (eg. The communities learning to farm, read etc.). Both highlight how learning in the wild just happens as a side product. Formal measuring and accounting makes it different. This can be shut down the learning. We want to connect to these things in academia. We need to value learning in these purpose driven learning situations.

Every skill/experience is only useful when it can be used later and connects to next opportunities. Outcomes and opportunities need both be measured. Students were asked: What is something you enjoyed as adolescent and got better at it. Why did you stop? Because going to school could take that time away. Continuous improvement assessment needs to be done too.

Starting with a student interest survey can help. We should survey how they continue after our classes. Social media could be used to achieve this. Project based sustained learning and meaningful connection to faculty member improved post-graduation happiness and success. Student product quality and participation can be assessed in the short term. Life changing does not happen in a single semester. Accountability on outcomes needs to be addressed.

Do we have to recognize failure? Just reward students’ accomplishments. Portfolios can be powerful tools for assessment. These portfolios can be very persuasive in the real world.

Technology and network advantages to higher education:

  • declaring a mission, not a major
  • group critique crowd sourcing for standards for the course

My example: Lab reports in Finland at the department of biochemistry were independently made. Failure was acceptable in experiments. You could get the report accepted as long as the failure was understood and explained. The report itself was called boomerang, as it went between TA and student as long as it took to get it cohesive, grammatically correct and fully descriptive of the experiment.

1 thought on “Why we need a why?

  1. Pingback: 3warriors

Leave a Reply