Future of the University

I’ve been a student at VT since fall 2008.  Since then, I’ve completed my undergraduate and masters, and now I’m working toward a Ph.D.  Although the blog prompt asks for “one” change, I’ve have a list of things I’d like to see change for future students.  However, I’ll focus on one issue that has bothered me even in lower education.  MEMORIZATION!  It wasn’t until my graduate career that I started seeing some deviation from this teaching method.  It is my belief that the purpose of a test (in engineering) should be to see how one solves complex issues related to design.  Instead, the majority my classes ask random questions that prove nothing of design, but rather the memory capacity of individual students.  I might have some reason for supporting this form of testing in prior generations where information was not available at our fingertips, but in our modern society I should not be asked questions such as “what is the average height of a pavement curb?”.  As a result of this system, many students are weeded out of courses, not because of their incapacity to design, but their incapacity to memorize.

2 thoughts on “Future of the University”

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with you. Although I do not teach engineering courses, I strive to design my courses so that my students do not have to memorize facts and dates that they could easily look up on Google. It seems to me that most disciplines would benefit from testing students on their ability to think critically rather than just on their ability to memorize facts.

  2. The still heavy emphasis on memorization in biology classes bothers me as well. We ask students to memorize scientific names and random facts with much less emphasis on actual skills like writing, critical thinking, and making connections between topics. Being good at memorization is rewarded in high school and undergrad, but isn’t the most useful thing for real life. We need people in jobs and in grad school with more than the ability to memorize facts for the short term. We need people who can see the big picture and the details, know how to find information, not rely on what they have memorized, and understand how disparate parts come together to make a whole.

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