Wednesday, 6 December 2017

HE ideas: Youth (and education) wasted on the young?

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was the original source of the quotation "Youth is wasted on the young".  The implication, however, that older, more experienced individuals would not squander the enthusiasm, energy, and openness of youth is sadly lacking in parts of the HE sector.
Let me explain:

In a naive and rather wonderful way, many academics hope that their students will grow to love the narrow branch of their discipline as much as they do.  Sadly, in the vast majority of cases, they will not.

Such enthusiasm and motivation coming from an intrinsic interest in the discipline is a noble aim but rarely sufficient to rely on for actual engagement of a whole cohort.  Instead, academics must deploy techniques to engender real engagement (i.e. engagement separate from the fear and desperation of failure in the assessment).
GBS circa 1915, via Wikimedia Commons

Back to Shaw:
    "Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything"

    So, what to change? what techniques to deploy?

    If you were to ask a micro-economics teacher what they would hope that the average first-year undergraduate learned in Microeconomics 101 they might rehearse the typical published Learning Outcomes for their module.  One example would be:

    By the end of this module students should:
     be able to use economic theory to explain consumer behaviour;

    So how will we set about achieving that outcome?

    • Start at Chapter 1 of the textbook
    • Draw lots of demand and supply diagrams and, just before students have grasped the enormity of that concept, start fiddling with them, drawing different lines, moving curves, changing get the drift?

    We teach that such economic models are built upon observation, testing, modelling and re-testing ideas.  So, why not get the students to do just that?  Let them explore a "simple" consumer scenario and ; 
    It means a focus on learning rather than teaching.

    Just a thought.

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