“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.” ~ John Dewey
The Lessons We Never Learn from History
- Everyone Learns the Same Way – No, everyone does not learn the same way or possess the same life experiences. A college freshman, recently graduated from high school, has needs that differ from a working adult with family responsibilities who has not participated in formal education for 10 years. So why do we feel that by continuing to offer the same type of traditional education that the end result will improve and continue to meet evolving marketplace needs? Because that is “the way we’ve always done it.” Those were likely the last words uttered by Borders Bookstores, Montgomery Ward, and Blockbuster. It’s time to learn in new ways.
- The Professor is Always Right – When we ascribe to the idea that the professor is always right, we program students early on that teaching through lectures is the best way to learn. A professor is not good because he/she is always right, but because he/she challenges students to think for themselves. Curricula should encourage students to challenge the status quo, take a stand, create new knowledge, and learn from failure. These are the exact qualities employers have been saying they want in new employees? Innovation is born out of questions and seeking new ideas, so why do we praise the processes which results in the opposite? Because “this is the way we’ve always done it.”
- We Need More Widgets – In an effort to find a solution, “widget” education has become the trend. Widget education is curricula designed specifically to teach job-related skills. The result is the oversaturation of the marketplace and the lack of soft skills attained by graduates. When did incorporating the humanities become “out-of-style” or seen as useless? Liberal arts colleges and humanities programs teach students to interact with various texts and engage in meaningful discussion. Students focus on the soft skills of reading, writing, and communication. Employers desire to hire individuals who have learned these skills so they can invest their time in teaching specific job-training needed for success. With the ever decreasing scores nation-wide in math and reading skills, it’s important that curricula be re-balanced to include those skills that employers are seeking.
The Lessons We Learn Too Well
- Being Traditional in an Online World – If we could, we would all be Harvard, right? I anticipate the answer is no. So, why do online institutions insist on continuing to align themselves with traditional schools when they do not serve traditional students? For instance, why does the online world feel that lectures are relevant? Online education is different from traditional educational models and lends itself to more flexibility and creativity. With the technological advancements available today and the openness to “fixing” education, online institutions have a greater opportunity than before to explore new, more supportive instructional models…ones that could even get Harvard to sit up and take notice. It’s time we rise to the challenge.
- One Solution For All – For some reason, we have developed a theory that one solution is best and will become the correct answer for all of education. Sorry to burst the bubble, but there is no one solution for education. However, there is opportunity for several solutions to reach the needs, interests, and abilities of millions of students seeking an education. We need to actively unlearn this lesson from the past and become active in our effort to improve student learning because that’s really what it’s all about. It’s time we got collaborative.
- Dear Government, We need help. Sincerely, Education – No, the federal government doesn’t have all the answers. We groan and complain about federal government intrusion in higher education, but we never stop to consider the invitation our inaction is sending. To loosely paraphrase a recent interview with Bill Gates, education is all about research, ideas, and searching for better solutions through critical analysis and discussion; yet, when it comes to accountability, all of higher education falls short which communicates, we need help. Educators understand the need best, therefore it’s our responsibility to get creative and make a difference.
What lessons have you learned from history to create change in education and challenge the status quo?