Experiential learning vs. “teaching to the test”

Education today does not adequately prepare students for the modern world, which is unfortunate considering how important it is. Universities and all other levels of education should be set up to create the next generation of scientists, teachers, scholars, and informed and discerning citizens. As indicated in this TED talk, current instructional practices focus on “teaching to the test.” This is largely due to initiatives that emphasize test scores as the most important metrics of learning. However, learning is a process, not an outcome. Teaching to a test does not teach students to think critically and understand the world around them in a deeper way. I think this is due partly to the fact that education is underfunded, leaving schools and teachers with fewer resources and less time available to work with students. However, this harms students in the end. I don’t think that students benefit very much from multiple choice testing and other similar methods that emphasize rote learning over critical thinking. I am hopeful that we will more towards a more experiential type of model. As we saw in Michael Wesch’s baby George talk, we learn better through experience in a positive, supportive environment than in a drab, stadium seating classroom. Some of my most memorable and beneficial experiences as an undergraduate and graduate student have been from independent research projects and papers. This is something that I think should be available to all students, not just those who are lucky enough to go to a small school for their undergrad or to graduate school. Part of the emphasis on standardized testing comes from the way instructors are evaluated, so this would need to change first. We need to reward instructors for taking the time and effort to truly engage their students. I am hopeful that we will get there eventually!

Networked Learning

This week, we are tasked with writing about the benefits of networked learning, e.g. blogging, in higher education. Blogging is something that prior to last semester’s Preparing the Future Professoriate course I had never tried. It seemed like too much pressure for too little reward to post my writing online. What if I said something stupid? Anything you post online, even after you delete it, lives on in one form or another, never to be truly reclaimed. For me blogging has been helpful in helping me get over this. As Seth Godin says, it is more about the exercise of forcing yourself to write than the final product itself. It really forces you to think about what you’re saying and how to get it across concisely. Doug Belshaw suggests that working openly by default has virtues in and of itself. Much like the open data movement, sharing as much information as possible as broadly as possible can only help further discussions with colleagues and others in your field. It may even help those in similar fields dealing with similar challenges. The potential to create a more public dialogue using blogs is immense. Hopefully over time, we as academics will learn to use blogs and other media to converse more openly and effectively with one another. Technology changes all the time, but online discourse will continue in one form or another so there is no harm in getting in as much practice as possible!


Belshaw, D. (2014, June 14). Working openly on the web: a manifesto • Literacies. Retrieved from http://literaci.es/working-openly-a-manifesto

Campbell, W. (2016, January 11). Networked Learning as Experiential Learning. Retrieved from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2016/1/networked-learning-as-experiential-learning.

Godin, S. (2009, April 18). Seth Godin & Tom Peters on blogging. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=livzJTIWlmY&feature=youtu.be

Hitchcock, T. (2015, July 27). Twitter and blogs are not just add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion underpinning it. Retrieved from http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2014/07/28/twitter-and-blogs-academic-public-sphere/