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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Michael Wesch: Anti-Teaching - Confronting The Crisis Of Significance

Apple If you want to see the significance problem first hand, visit a classroom and pay attention to the types of questions asked by students. Good questions are the driving force of critical and creative thinking and therefore one of the best indicators of significant learning. Good questions are those that force students to challenge their taken-forgranted assumptions and see their own underlying biases. Oftentimes the answer to a good question is irrelevant the question is an insight in itself. The only answer to the best questions is another good question. And so the best questions send students on rich and meaningful lifelong quests, question after question after question. Unfortunately, such great questions are rarely asked by students in an education system facing a crisis of significance. Much more common are administrative questions: How long does this paper need to be? Is attendance mandatory? Or the worst (and most common) of all: What do we need to know for this test? Such questions reflect the fact that, for many (students and teachers alike), education has become a relatively meaningless game of grades rather than an important and meaningful exploration of the world in which we live and co-create.
Contrary to many of my faculty peers, I do not blame the students themselves for asking these kinds of questions. As teachers we have created and continue to maintain an education system that inevitably produces them. If we accept John Dewey s notion that people learn what they do, the lecture format, which is the mainstay of teaching (especially in large introductory courses), teaches students to sit in neat rows and to respect, believe, and defer to authority (the teacher). Tests often measure little more than how well they can recite what they have been told. Hoping to memorize only just as much as necessary to succeed on the test, they ask that question I never want to hear - the ultimate exception to the rule that "there is no such thing as a bad question".

Michael Wesch: Anti-Teaching - Confronting The Crisis Of Significance

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