One often hears of active learning as a new approach. In contrast, lecturing is the traditional method. Those who support active learning consider it an innovation. Those who do not consider it “another in a long line of educational fads,” as Michael Prince notes. The sequence and chronology remain undisputed either way. Lecturing came first. It has always been with us. Active learning came later. It has been on the scene for a relatively short time.
Even one as well informed as Wilbert McKeachie calls lecturing “probably the oldest teaching method.” Similarly, while Marilyn Page declares active learning “not a new concept,” she goes on to date it only as far back as the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, with Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Dewey. Time and again in her dissertation on the history of active learning, she explicitly describes it in terms of a “rejection of traditional teaching methods.”
I think these common ways of talking about active learning and lecturing constitute a historical and rhetorical misstep. That is, saying that lecturing precedes active learning is not accurate and does not frame the discussion productively. Continue reading
The pundits agree. All of them. Higher education is in trouble. “Very serious trouble,” says Ethan Miller. Crises abound. Especially ones related to the economics of college: the influence of free-market economics, the declining status of the humanities in relation to vocational fields, unfair labor practices for adjuncts, rising student-loan debt, the use of technology for inexpensive mass education, and drastic cuts in public funding. But as Richard P. Keeling and Richard H. Hersh argue, economic crises are not the only ones facing higher education, nor the most important. What is the most important problem? “To say it as plainly as possible: students do not learn enough in college, period.”
Certainly, economic and educational problems intersect. Without adequate funding, for instance, colleges and universities cannot do as much as they should improve learning. And yet, at the same time, increased funding would not automatically result in increased learning. We could hypothetically solve the many economic problems facing higher education and still fail to better facilitate deep and lasting learning for more students.
Too often debates in higher education neglect or fail to adequately prioritize questions of learning. Thankfully, a growing number of writers make just that their top priority. Three books on the learning crisis stand out. Continue reading
Posted in Scholarship on Teaching and Learning
Tagged Academically Adrift, Derek Bok, Josipa Roksa, learning crisis, Limited learning, My Freshman Year, Our Underachieving Colleges, Readings, Rebekah Nathan, recommended reading, Research, Richard Arum
In a culture with few serious readers, professors belong to a privileged reading class. We are literate to nth degree. Our literacy gives us power. We can decipher, interpret, and understand. When we read the scholarship on teaching and learning, we put our high levels of literacy to use for immediate and practical good. Unfortunately, too often we do not do this as much as we might want or as much as we should, for a variety of legitimate and not-so-legitimate reasons. Why not? Continue reading
We advocate active, purposeful, and participatory reading. We advocate teachers reading in order to reflect critically and creatively on their own teaching philosophies and practices in order to change them and improve them.
—The Teaching & Learning in Higher Ed. Manifesto
Last week, I launched the first annual “reading drive” for Teaching & Learning in Higher Ed. So far, nearly 100 college teachers and others involved in teaching and learning in higher education have joined, indicating that they are planning or committing to read at least one book on teaching and learning this academic year.
This humble (but not too shabby) beginning underscores the larger phenomenon that many college teachers, many more than a hundred, do read the scholarship on teaching and learning. This is so despite obstacles, e.g., competing demands on our time and the academic culture that generally devalues pedagogical knowledge. Why? Continue reading
I will read at least one book on teaching and learning
this academic year.
—College Teachers Everywhere?
In one survey, only 8 percent of college teachers reported “taking any account” of research on teaching and learning into preparing their courses.
This post presents the first annual Teaching & Learning in Higher Ed. reading drive.
I’m inviting college teachers and others involved in college teaching and learning to commit or plan to read at least one book on teaching and learning this school year.
To participate, simply respond to the poll to the right and then go read a book.
Looking for something good to read? Consider these lists of core readings and more core readings.
To support this reading drive, share this post with colleagues.
During a year-long research sabbatical, Cathy Small, a professor of anthropology at Northern Arizona University, enrolled as an undergraduate student in her own university. As a teacher and an anthropologist, she wanted to better understand student culture. What do students do with their lives while in school and why? Small lived in the dorms, took classes, and made friends. She watched, took notes, conducted interviews, and asked a dozen students to record their daily lives for her in diaries.
Afterward, using the pseudonym Rebekah Nathan to protect her subjects’ identities, she wrote an ethnographic description of student culture: My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student (Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 2005; reprinted New York: Penguin, 2006). One of our core readings and the focus of not a little controversy, this book has been widely read, highly acclaimed, and deeply bemoaned—if also often misunderstood. It has appropriately become a landmark for discussions of student learning and the lack thereof. Continue reading