GRAD 5114: The Banking Concept of Education

Reading “Banking Concept of Education” by Paulo Freire hit the spot describing our current education system, he refers to as the banking education system. We often criticize some aspects of our education system or list the pros and cons and what can be improved, but I have never read an article before that goes as far as comparing the education system to the slavery system. Although it does indeed give an accurate narration to what , in my opinion, our education system is built on, I think the author goes too far at some instances, ignoring the continuous efforts done by some teachers to change the system. In the following paragraphs, I will share some of the phrases Freire mentions in his article that caught my attention and reflect upon:

“Education is suffering from narration sickness” is one of the most accurate statements describing our current education system. In our classroom, most of the time spent during lectures consist of the professor explaining/narrating, followed by a shy round of whether “anyone has a question” every now and then. I remember in every classroom, and while some gave more space for students to ask and discuss, most of them allocated very limited time for discussions. I always had so many question in my head but I always knew answers would be brief if any,  I wouldn’t be given enough time to reflect on what I thought, and so I ended up nodding my head by no questions. This is one of the reasons I intend to do the opposite in my classrooms. And while I realize I will be constrained by time and material, discussion time will be sacred, because I know from personal experience you learn more during discussion than during explanation.

“The students, alienated like the slave in the Hegelian dialectic, accept their ignorance as justifying the teacher’s existence-but, unlike the slave, they never discover that they educate the teacher. ” Yes, students do educate teachers more than they are given credit for. I remember numerous instances in which the professor didn’t have an answer and ended up searching for it. Good teachers do realize this fact, and are often thrilled and excited by it. And this is how it should be, the interaction between the teacher and the student is a two-way street where both are gaining from this intellectual exchange. Although this is not supposed to happen with equal portions, meaning that the student must learn more from the professor, students still, despite in small portions, educate the teacher.

“The more completely students accept the passive role imposed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them. ” This statement is one of the most statements I could relate to in terms of our education system, and even life in general. The more limitations imposed on the critical thinking/questioning process students undergo in classrooms, the more they are inclined to take things at face value, accepting reality as it is. And this is reflected in their everyday curiosity to ask questions and doubt facts imposed on them. This even extends to their work life and attitude towards their bosses and colleagues. These 50 mins classrooms have a life time effect that we often seem to forget intentionally, and unintentionally. Curiosity, to a certain extent, is a blessing that should be embraced by teachers.

GRAD 5114: Online Pedagogy

I am discussing the article entitled “Decoding Digital Pedagogy, pt. 1: Beyond the LMS” found here by Sean Morris. The article decodes what actually digital pedagogy means and how it is practices, it adds some novel insights that we don’t usually consider.  We often imagine moving our lectures and slides online with the same configurations and setup is digital pedagogy, mixing it up with online teaching. The truth is, taking a classroom content and moving it online can not be considered pedagogical, and might even go as far as contradicting the word itself.

Digital pedagogy is rather an engaging and mindful process. It provides new opportunities and test new practices to create new learning environments for students.   Digital pedagogy urges students  to explore and inquire, bearing in mind that some approaches may fail, and it is a journey of trials that teach us. The article discusses few questions the author find them critical for understanding the essence of online pedagogy. Few of these questions focus on finding new ways and tools for students to learn and improvise; and looking into the best ways to utilize technology in classrooms to extend the learning process beyond the duration of classrooms.

Personally, I believe we are still far from optimizing the use of online pedagogy in our courses. We are either far behind from understanding its real meaning and means of applications or we misuse it in our classroom. I do realize it is a process of learning and experimenting, but in some instances we are not ready to deal with the outcome yet.  Nonetheless, the slow inclusion of technology-based activities is a good starting point into the world of online pedagogy, it is a step forward to allow ourselves to get used to this new learning environment and learn the ups and downs in the process.

The concern is not getting excited to indulge in online pedagogy world, but it is rather getting too excited and making a swift transition that would die in few years. Online courses emerged as a better learning option, especially for working students and parents with full-time jobs. Today, it is reported that more than 90% of people who start MOOC don’t finish and even if they do, they don’t end up taking another course. This raises the need for us to slow down the transition process into new realms.




GRAD 5114: Active learning Strategies

Case-based and problem-based learning are instructional approaches that encourage active learning and promote for a mindful teaching experience to be used in higher education. The motivation behind both methods is to challenge students with open-ended problems or real-life cases  to promote critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. By being exposed to new scenarios, student work in small groups to implement a solution by applying their knowledge to new situations in a team effort. In these pedagogical approaches, teachers often play the role of the facilitator directing the learning process and guiding students rather than providing them with direct knowledge.

Proponents have often stood by this method of teaching due to its positive impact on students’ abilities and motivation to learn. John Foran, one of pro active learning professors, describe in his article at the NEA higher education journal  his journey to achieve this. He describes one of the greatest challenges in classroom “is to make the material come alive for students by making it comprehensible to them and relevant to their lives”. After trying different approaches to overcome the lack of interaction in his classrooms, he implemented the case-based approach. Foran describes the case-based flow he uses in his classrooms by a series of steps that involve: 1) Setting the scene by a series of factual questions; 2) lively role play, where students  “inhabit” the case and debate the case settings, and 3) the analytic section where major assessment of the discussion is highlighted.

An article about problem-bases learning by Stanford University in 2001, found here, describes the need for learning to be “student-centered”, where students lead the class discussion and assess their own work and others. The goal is allow students to become “effective problem-solvers”. To do this however, students must be conscious about what they previously know about the problem, and what more knowledge they need to be able to develop strategies to solve the problem. The challenge comes in teaching students how to do that, and this is the role of the instructor, which becomes a “tutor or “cognitive coach” who models inquiry strategies, guides exploration, and helps students clarify and pursue their research questions”.

Despite all of that, active learning have drawn some criticism, mainly related to the important role the instructor has to do in accounting for the knowledge students must previously know. It is not an easy job for the teacher to play, and it does require a lot of planning outside classroom and a lot of awareness within the classroom. It makes us question how much is it worth it to teach students how to find the solution rather than just giving them the solution?



GRAD 5114: Inclusive Pedagogy

Culturally responsive teaching and inclusion is one of the topics always on table for discussion.  It has been incorporated in teaching strategies and preparations for years, yet there is an urging need to address it every time.

I was watching the video recommended by Homero “Same differences: How microaggressions are like mosquito bites”. I think it accurately compares microaggressions to mosquito bites to allow others, who don’t experience them, feel what it is really like. Some comments have shallow effect that vanishes instantly, while other bites might have a lasting effect that could even destroy other people’s dreams and  hopes. Some people tend to speak freely what is on their mind, with good intentions, yet they fail to recognize the effect of their question or comment on others and how it might be perceived. The lack of consideration is primarily the main reason for all these unfortunate incidents. Now imagine this person is a college professor, who is teaching and inspiring hundreds of students during a critical stage of their lives. It is no exaggeration if we assume that their comments and behaviors in the classrooms have the ability to either build or destroy the future of these students.

There is a lot of articles and videos written and shared about inclusive pedagogy and even some guidelines to follow, discussing the importance to “insert culture into education”. Although this seem under control, it really isn’t. People who are not experiencing the effects of these bites might encounter or hear about this but would not relate or act to face it. This is why I really think discussing such topics in graduate courses, as ours, is very important. Sharing the experience with other students who fall under  this category and learning the implications of such actions/comments on students and how it changes their lives or seeing an example of the effect of simple few words on others’ feelings can make a difference.

This might be a long journey to teach an entire society how to be more inclusive but we should start somewhere. And I think starting to enlighten future professors on the effects and importance of culturally responsive teaching is a very important first step towards changing a society.

GRAD 5114: Discovering your authentic teaching self

Reading about “Discovering your teaching self” highlights the importance of the way or style of teaching. The concept of still learning and writing about this proves that there is really no right or wrong way to teach, or else it would be that simple and taught as a rule in graduate school. This means no specific way prevails in providing information to students, but there are definitely certain ways more effective than others.

As we start our teaching career we all recall the best teachers we had or liked and try to copy their styles, hoping that would yield the same successful results it yielded on us years ago. It turns out that is not how things work exactly. Having a successful teaching experience as a students doesn’t necessarily mean that you, yourself will be able to pull the same successful outcome if you use the same style. If we think about it, the reason is very simple: ” Teaching is also about reflecting your personality in the style you teach rather than copying other styles”. It is about utilizing your best traits to serve your purpose. It is rather a journey you undergo to discover what you are doing right and what doesn’t work. And I think it is not a constant finding that applies to all your classes and students. The general outline of your style will definitely be consistent, if you are  funny by nature then that will always reflect in your all of your teaching styles, but the specifics will differ. The topics you are teaching and the level of students you will be teaching will dictate some peculiarities. This requires continuous adaptation of your style to better serve the purpose of a specific lecture, but that doesn’t mean there is not a certain level of your character reflected even in those specifics.

I think with experience you learn the best scenarios and best mechanisms to cope with specific teaching situations. You learn that every professor must have a unique style which makes him/her special, and this style is certainly related to their beliefs and characters. Personally, in the very brief teaching experience I had during my masters studies I learned to reflect myself while teaching, but up to a certain limit. I learned to read my students and my audience and see what traits of myself are better received by the specific set of students and I acted accordingly. I had two sections with 20 students each and I behaved partially different with each of these sections. My first section had a more loud, easy-going, fun type of students which required me to teach in a more easy going yet quiet way. The second section had more serious and quiet type of students which forced the other side of me to balance the lack of energy and excitement in the room. Although I behaved slightly different in both of these sections, I still managed to keep the basics of my personality and style in both,  changing the volume of the traits I have to better fit the circumstances.

GRAD 5114: Mindful Learning

We often receive information in our classrooms in a mindless state. We are passed most of our knowledge as facts and certain conclusions, leaving no room for our speculations or “what if’s”.  In the paper “Mindful Learning”, Ellen Langer talks about the power in uncertainty, yet most of us as professors and students tend to mistakenly seek for certainty and facts in our fields. We tend to forget the power of the mindful process of thinking we go through if we don’t take facts as pure facts but rather as information that could be right or wrong.

In my field of geotechnical engineering,  a lot of uncertainties are present whether in methods or conclusions we know. Dealing with uncertain things underground is reflected in the uncertain conclusions we reach. I have often compared geotechnical courses to the regular civil engineering courses I took as an undergrad, and I must say the uncertain nature of this field affects the way it is taught, forcing students to account for all possibilities and question all findings. This was not the case for other courses in my undergrad, where subjects being taught sounded more certain and true, with no room for wonder.

Ellen Langer concludes the article questioning the best pathway to follow for our future generations. How healthy would it be to teach our children to question everything presented to them to nourish that “mindful thinking” since early ages? Yet another valid point is raised on whether this is really the optimum way to proceed or should we rather provide a certain stability in our children’s early experiences before they get overwhelmed by mindful learning? The ability to think beyond what is given to you as a fact changes you for the better, but it still has major implications, especially if you are taught to do that since early childhood.  This even raises more questions on where is the limit  we should stop at? What borderline should we teach our children to stop doubting at and trust what we know to be able to move forward? How severe are the consequences that come along with mindful learning and doubting and how may they affect other aspects of our lives?

New Teaching Methods Post

Despite the amazing features an educational institution can offer to its students, teaching will always by the top necessity students actually need. And with all the changes in our lives, teaching have took many forms throughout the years. However, it has been sometime since people remember others forms of teaching besides the classroom. It did change from a black board and a chalk to a white board and a pen, to a bunch of slides on a Microsoft powerpoint, but the essence of teaching didn’t really change.

As a previous student, and a current one, who attended so many courses and listened to more professors, I can say our current method of teaching may needs some improvements. There definitely have been some styles of teaching I enjoyed more than others, some classrooms I was eagerly waiting to leave and some professors I can’t forget their words. Not all of them were successful experiences,  there are some courses that we just loved so much and others that we just hated. Although this is contingent to the subject being taught, teaching methods does affect students experiences.

In addition to the traditional classrooms teaching, there are other common teaching methods as the flipped classrooms, which requires students to watch a video before class and devote the class time for discussions and problems, rather than for explanation. There is also active learning, and problem-based learning which are more student-centered.  Both require students to be more active in their own teaching, to be in charge of solving and discussing rather than being a blank paper waiting to be filled with the teacher explanation, which mostly end up as failed attempts. Blended learning have been increasing too, combining online and traditional learning techniques. Student-led learning, however, encourages students to work together and support each other in understanding the material.

There many other approaches that have currently been proposed to indulge students more into active learning, where students are more engaged inside classrooms rather than being passive receptors. I think the key factor here is involving the students, in a way or other, keep them busy with finding solutions and seeking answers, rather than presenting them with ready ones. And as they say, things are better learnt working hard for them.

Changes in Higher Education Post

Every domain has to undergo changes at some point in time to ensure contiguity and to adapt to the changes in world. Higher educations is no different, and higher education changes seem to realize the need to implement certain changes.

I do believe higher education institutions need to change the way of teaching. Two-third of students attend universities to secure “financial stability”, yet we still see high numbers of under-employment”  ( 6 Reason Why Higher Educations Needs to be Disrupted, 2019). There is a general questioning of how university qualifications translate to work, with a growing number of employers expressing reservations about graduates’ job-readiness and potential to add immediate value to the workplace”, which raise some questions about how much a good job do universities prepare students for jobs once they graduate and how useful what is taught is besides the seats of classroom.

Lectures and courses taught should be given with some application level, allowing students to sense how would they use this theoretical knowledge in their careers. Lectures should include higher skills need in the job market, real-life problems, practical discussions and intellectual analysis rather than the same set of notes taught from year to year. Students need to value the knowledge offered to them, and held accountable of preparing for a more advanced interaction inside the classrooms, increasing their critical thinking skills and problem solving abilities.

Changes could force student to look into course notes before coming to class, undergo an assessment and then, based on this, be allowed to participate in further class discussions and advanced problem-solving. This doesn’t have to be the only way to change, but it one suggestion to rather increase the effectiveness of role of higher education institutions in better preparing students to emerge within jobs with higher levels of practical knowledge needed in work, and therefore increase their value and chances in the job-market.

The need for innovation in Higher Education Post

With the rise in tuition at universities and the relatively limited government funding of the education is proposing new challenging on students. The need for new approaches and changes in higher education is becoming more and more urgent.

The evaluation of the choice to proceed with higher education or not depend primarily on the estimated wage premiums, will it be worth it to invest in education with a higher potential wage in the future? Tuition is now 13 times higher than what they were 40 years ago, and government reduced education funding significantly after the recession in 2008 (16% less per student from 208 to 2018). However, the average wage can increase 60 to 75% more than what is earned by individuals with no education. Due to the reduced funding, universities are responding in different manner. Purdue, for example, lessened the intake of instate students, and increased the intake of out of state and international students since these students pay higher tuition with less need for financial aid.

In addition to the reduced funding, there is the concern that higher education might not necessarily provide students with the needed skills for the jobs outside. Some university programs seems much simpler or outdated than real world problems. This problem seem to be worsening with the increase in automation and artificial intelligence worldwide, forcing universities to come up with new solutions to overcome the challenges faced by students in higher education.

Some of the solutions/ innovations include online teaching as an accepted option to attain a degree; the increase in competency-based education (CBE) which are less expensive and more career-orientated; income share agreements that help students in paying their debts from their salaries and allow them a grace period until they find a job; in additions to other solutions.

** This blog on based on the Education Plus development article found here.