Since my job ended at exactly the right time, I’m taking a short sociology course this summer. I have wanted to take such a course for a while, so when I saw that the course started just after I finished work, I figured why not.
I decided to audit the course, and I’m really glad I did. I really do not agree with tests as a means of motivation or validating knowledge. It turns out the course has a midterm worth 40% and a final worth 50%. So, I’m certain I made the correct decision.
The first class was fascinating. The professor is very good at story telling. He described various concepts and had a story to go with each one (one might call them examples, but the way he told it, it was more like a story).
The professor also provided students with many tips on what or how we should be “learning”. The class is a 3-hour lecture format, with a 15 minute break in the middle. During the break I heard fellow students discussing the course. Their entire discussion was about whether they were understanding what information they should be writing down and trying to interpret how to “read” the instructor from a testing perspective. I found this to be so sad. These are the students that our institutions are generating. Their entire world resolved around how they were going to prepare for the test. They did not discuss a single thing related to the actual topics presented.
I had to think back and try and remember what it was like. Was I so test focused during my undergrad years? I don’t think so, but I’m not sure. The only social science courses I took were math related philosophy courses and they were all about getting an easy credit, not about the knowledge. So, I guess I must have been in a vary similar mindset.
I think the masters degree I did online (which involved many discussions and papers, and NO tests), has helped me figure out how I learn best. It has also showed me what education could be. Unfortunately, we do not prepare our kids for real education. We teach them to “figure out what the teacher wants” rather than doing any real creative or critical thinking on their own. (By the way, it sounded to me like the professor was looking for critical thinking, so these students may very well be in for a real surprise when they get there results back).
Being honest though, I did find the class a struggle in some respects. I tried very hard to concentrate on listening to the professor. What I haven’t figured out yet, is how I will make the best of this opportunity. I need to teach myself how to learn again using the lecture format, rather than the online discussion format.
I am also trying to figure out the best way to take notes in a less linear manner. I saw someone at an Informal Learning unworkshop take notes in the form of a mind map. I thought that was fascinating; however, I don’t find the traditional mind maps at all represent how I think. (I think it is related to my inability to consistently file anything!). So, at the moment my notes are a jumble of words, sometimes with arrows connecting the different ideas. I think that I mostly take notes so that I am doing something kinesthetic during the lecture. I wonder if knitting during a lecture would be frowned upon ;).
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