HOW CAN WE DO BETTER? AN ASSIGNMENT



As I write this entry, I am in the middle of giving my second Financial Accounting test of the semester.   The students are sweating away at this very moment.   If you would like to receive a copy of the test just to see how another teacher asks questions, drop me an email at Jhoyle@richmond.edu.
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I was asked recently to give a presentation here at the University of Richmond to explain my long-time use of the Socratic Method.   There was clearly a lot of curiosity because faculty showed up from all across campus:   biology, chemistry, computer science, English, history, law, political science, and more.   I sense that our faculty members (or maybe just faculty in general) truly want to look at alternative ways of teaching in hopes of getting away from a lecture and memorize model in order to move more toward the development of critical thinking skills by the students. 

Or, maybe they all just came for the free lunch.

I had a marvelous time.   The conversation and questions were great. I always think more faculty conversation about teaching has to make for better student learning.   

In hopes of getting the group talking and thinking before the session, I sent out a preliminary “assignment.”   I thought you might enjoy “doing” the assignment also.   I have edited this a little but it is clearly intended to push the faculty to ponder how well we are doing as a university.   You might share this assignment with your colleagues and use it as a basis to talk about your school.

Here is the assignment I emailed out to this group:
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 I am sending this note to the folks who have signed up for my upcoming presentation on the Socratic Method.   I am especially thrilled that we have folks from all over campus who plan to attend.   I think we should have campus-wide conversations more often.   I am looking forward to discussing alternative teaching methods with you and providing a demonstration using nine of my current students.

Short assignment:  I have a very short advance assignment for you—it should take about 5-8 minutes.

(1) – Go to the following URL and listen to the first two lines (just the first two lines) of a famous song sung by one of the great singers/song writers of our time. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhTPST3bBJQ

Okay, I assume that the sentiment expressed in these first two lines does NOT apply to the education here at our school.   But, maybe I am just being naïve and gullible.   Maybe, I have been fooled by the PR.   How do we know that the first 21 words of this song do not apply to us in 2015?

(2) – Go to the following URL and read one single comic strip written by one of the great comic strip writers of the last 50 years. 

http://www.gocomics.com/doonesbury/2011/06/26

Okay, I assume that the sentiment expressed in the last panel of this comic strip does NOT apply to the education here at our school.   But, maybe I am just being naïve and gullible.  Maybe I have been fooled by the PR.   How do we know that this last panel does not apply to us in 2015?

(3) – Read the following short passage from one of the most important education books by one of the most famous educators of our time (from page 32 of Our Underachieving Colleges by Derek Bok):

“Although attacks on college professors seem overblown, there is a subtler problem with faculty behavior that contributes to most of the shortcomings discussed in this book.   However much professors care about their teaching, nothing forces them or their academic leaders to go beyond normal conscientiousness in fulfilling their classroom duties.  There is no compelling necessity to reexamine familiar forms of instruction and experiment with new pedagogic methods in an effort to help their students accomplish more.” 

In other words, “good enough is good enough.” 

Ultimately, isn’t that the curse of the human race?   Whether you are a bank teller, a minister, a college student, a politician, a taxi cab driver, a cook at Taco Bell, or a college professor—don’t we all kind of fall back on “good enough is good enough?”

Okay, having made that extremely cynical comment, I still assume that the sentiment expressed in Bok’s paragraph does NOT apply to the education here at our school.   But, maybe I am just being naïve and gullible.   Maybe I have been fooled by the PR.   How do we know that this paragraph does not apply to us in 2015?


PS – One final question to ponder:   If the faculty as a group here at our university decided that our goal was for 100 percent of our students to move up to a higher form of thinking on Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Domains, how would we go about achieving that vision?   (I realize that is a simplistic question but I imagine you get my point.)   Now, at least for me, that is a question worth pondering.


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