This is a nice, provocative article. In summary:
Professors will not meet the needs for more and better higher education until
professors become designers of learning experiences and not teachers. The
important basis of colleges, one which college administrators should
remember, is that the learning takes prevalence over the teaching.
The author, Larry Spence of Penn State, states that
"Everyone knows what teaching is, what learning is, and how to improve higher education. Yet no one is satisfied. Today's graduates cannot meet the demands of workplace or community without several more years of learning on the job. They cannot formulate and solve messy real-world problems, work well with others in high-stress team situations, write and speak forcefully and persuasively, or improve their own performance."
On the other hand, fortunately, there is something of a movement-not necessarily in opposition to the observations of Spence-reminding all concerned that education involves students learning to take responsibility for their own learning. That is, ultimately, where learning takes place-in students' heads. I try to engage my students, make classes interesting, foster active learning where possible, emphasize student-centered learning, etc. So I get a little weary of the finger-wagging tone of people like Dr. Spence.
At the beginning of this semester I spent an hour emphasizing the importance of the syllabus-the importance of reading the syllabus, consulting the syllabus, knowing what's going on based on the syllabus. Part of that session stressed the importance of staying in e-mail communication throughout the week. To make it interesting we had an open-syllabus quiz, a kind of syllabus "scavenger hunt," used our e-mail accounts, played a bit in the pre-established chat rooms. Yet, despite that time invested, and my good-natured encouragement, I discover that two weeks into the course few are cognizant of anything on the syllabus (hard copy or on-line version), and virtually no one has been reading their e-mail.
Spence claims to have worked on more than 170 projects aimed at improving student learning (while trying to reduce costs). He concludes that they pretty much all failed. Did he at least figure out how to get students to track course schedules? Remember due dates? Read the syllabus--let alone the textbook? If so, I'm curious.
Perhaps Dr. Spence would give me and my style a thorough analysis and patiently but constructively explain how and where I am missing the mark as a "designer of a learning experience." Still, I would maintain that great educational strides could be made if students would consent to, and take responsibility for, reading the syllabus for the courses in which they are enrolled. Referring to the quote above, does it take employers two years to motivate new employees to read basic job-related policies and procedures? What about a condensed eight-page version?
In any case, this was a provocative article. And, despite this lament for argumentative purposes, I like my students; I have learned patience. If Alan does not spark reaction here, it is probably only because most faculty reach a 9- or 10-hour day before provocative articles on teaching technique come up on the diurnal priority list. Personally, I like to get home before Koppel comes on...
Gary H. Jones, Ph.D
Western Carolina University
Assistant Professor of Business Communication
Cullowhee, NC 28723
Forsyth College of Business
Home Page <http://paws.wcu.edu/gjones/>
From: Alan Altany
Sent: Wednesday, September 10, 2003 5:01 PM
Subject: The Case Against Teaching
This essay, "The Case Against Teaching" by Larry Spence (http://www.unf.edu/dept/cirt/altitude/archives/altitude4/Spence.pdf),
could lead to some good discussions about what Spence says and your responses to it.
If the article is not provocative or evocative enough, who has a topic of strong concern about being new faculty at Western?
Alan Altany, Professor & Director
Coulter Faculty Center
Western Carolina University
Cullowhee, NC 28723 (U.S.)
<mailto:email@example.comFAX> FAX: 828.227.7340
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SoTL at Western: http://www.wcu.edu/sotl/
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