Is Getting to the Finish Line Enough?

Mark Carnes wrote an article where he talked about his learning concept called Reacting to the Past. Carnes description of Reacting to the Past is in alignment with the established descriptions of active learning. However, I have found the term –active learning–lacking clarity. So I have started to refer to [what would be] active learning as lived-learning…with the outcome of lived-knowledge. We are more likely to reach students if we can immerse them in the material. One way to do this is to move the stories we teach closer to their realities and their experiences. Let them touch history. Let them change the outcomes outlined in a lesson with contemporary tools. I purchase this approach.

Now, a slight left turn from active learning. Last semester I wrote a paper asking the question Is education the key to a better quality of life. In particular, I wanted to know if college completion would yield an improvement in the areas of labor and shelter. What I found was a significant difference in the success outcomes and these differences were based on race. After running a few comparisons between racial groups, I found that–even with an increasing rate of college completion–markers of success had not improved for Blacks since 1964.

Carnes is concerned with students completing college, and the anecdotes he provided are great examples of how we can re-engage students. In addition to Carnes’ concern, I am concerned about what happens after college. Keeping students interested and engaged is just one step towards preparing them for success in life. There are other hurdles our students will have to overcome, and we can help them by finding ways to address the aforementioned disparities.

I would love to hear your thoughts about lived-learning and success beyond college.


Filed under GEDIVTS17

6 Responses to Is Getting to the Finish Line Enough?

  1. I share everyone else’s enthusiasm for “lived learning” as a concept worth developing! Very cool. And the whole “quality of life” thing….let’s talk about that! The idea that the measures the society as a whole values (employment and housing), have not improved for some groups (i.e. Blacks) for fifty years?!?!?!? We’ve got to do better, and acknowledging the persistence of these kinds of disparities is a place to start.

  2. Iris

    I really like this statement ‘Let them touch history’. I agree that it is very important to give students a context in which to understand the material better. If they can relate to it, they stand a better chance of understanding it and doing better in the class.

  3. I totally agree with you about active learning and connecting the material we teach with reality and students’ lived experience. I love true stories/movies/books etc it is something about the fact that it is true that captures my attention. I also learn and retain more information through narratives as well. Great post!

  4. Kyriakos Tsoukalas

    Whatever adjective we use to describe or modify “learning” will be incomplete, because learning does not have only one mode but multiple ones. Figuring out the multiplicity of learning is not an easy task, because each individual weights modes of learning differently. As per your markers of success I would love to know what was the population that your sample came from.

    • Henry Smart


      I used data from the U.S. Census and the Bureau of Labor statistics. I used a few qualifiers to make sure the focus was on college-eligible citizens. If you like, I can send you the paper. It’s about 10 pages.

  5. Jyotsana

    Great post Henry! You bring up some fantastic points. “Lived-learning” sounds like a great idea. I am excited to see you making the connections to how education does not happen in a void by itself but has other things around it that continue to shape it as it goes along. Can’t wait for when we get to some other sections that will help elaborate on what you are sharing here.

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