Integral Education: Strategic Challenges and roadmap ahead (XXII): The shift from “studying only” to “learning by thinking before doing”
In town, we are less than 38 hours from the year 2019. Oh my God, we are so close to finishing this year. Every year we live, is a wonderful year don`t you think so? Today is the turn of the subject the shift from “studying only” to learning by thinking before doing”.
Dan Pratt (1998) has written a book which shows “There are at least five qualitatively different perspectives on teaching, and these are :
- Transmission: effective delivery of content (an objectivist approach)
- Apprenticeship: modeling ways of being (learning by doing under supervision)
- Developmental: cultivating ways of thinking (constructivist/cognitivist)
- Nurturing: facilitating self-efficacy (a fundamental tenet of connectives Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
- Social reform: seeking a better society”.
From my own perspective, and looking back to my life, I have been lucky enough to learn from professors who have utilized the last five perspectives. Probably, the majority of the times I had professors who taught me using the first three perspectives (transmission, apprenticeship, developmental). More recently, I have tried the nurturing teaching perspective using the digital MOOCs or youtube videos, when learning French and watercolors techniques. Finally, when working for the World Bank, I was provoked to learn using a social reform approach.
All these perspectives are useful once we understand all of them are different ways we can learn. The best professors utilize all of them as resources to teach on the campus or university facilities. And all these perspectives work well because we have different students with different learning styles. But the current challenge is how the digital media and the tonnes of information available have disrupted the traditional concept of these traditional methods of learning. Professor A.W. Bates has written an open online textbook available for all called “Teaching in a digital age: guidelines for designing teaching and learning”. Bates states: “While more academic content becomes openly and freely available, students will look increasingly to their local institutions for support with their learning, rather than for the delivery of content. This puts a greater focus on teaching skills and less on subject expertise”. What do you think?
For me, professors do not have to be facilitators of previous conditions of knowledge. Good professors deliver content from the past, present, and future. And this content has to be transferred with excellent teaching skills. This content must be so innovative, well combined and integrally miscellaneous in comparison of what students can find in Google. Of course, teachers have to share historical contexts and concepts, as the prelude for students lectures. But Professors were created to innovate through research and make an experience of a lifetime in each of their lectures. And lectures in the class are important because people are socially invited to learn from their peers and feel the emotions of debating with the people around.
To be a faculty professor in the USA requires a Ph.D. To study a Ph.D. takes at least between 4 to 5 years of life after you finish your Bachelor degree. During all those years, Ph. Ds have to be taught to be critical thinkers and strategic innovators. It is time for professors to retake their own role for which they were conceived. Professors are creators of new content. Professors with Ph. Ds were educated to provide deep content in comparison to what any student can get openly and freely available all over the Internet. The real issue here is that we have accepted the idea that professors content can be replaced by the internet content that is available online. What? Give me a break. Outstanding educators, go beyond what is written in this or any blog or what is recorded in a youtube video… Outstanding educators bring experience to the table. So pity is to find the same professors have accepted the role of teaching assistants or Google content facilitators instead of sitting in their own chairs as creators of new content for their students.
It is time for educators to start believing in themselves as originators of their own content by doing personal research. It is time for educators to understand their role, and return to their origins, to the motives for which they were considered. It is time for them to share their experiences, their learning from mistakes research, their stories. I guarantee, that regardless of the methodologies, perspectives of teaching used, an outstanding professor will never demerit himself, or herself to be seen as a teaching assistant or facilitator of Google content in his or her class.
Let`s see what I mean with the term “studying only”model of learning. Traditionally, people thought that studying is simply an effort to read or to attend lectures, get the knowledge, understand it and then apply it by using several types of resources: either exercises, prototype creation, doing class presentations and reports, or applying it to real problems to find alternative solutions.
The “Studying Only” model (regardless of the 5 learning types listed above) includes:
- A Prelude: Students prepare the class at home – Previous reading of the textbook, complimentary reading or previous google research (watching youtube videos related, or reading blogs, news, etc)
- Lectures: The experience of learning in the class: Traditionally we are used to attending a lecture from the professor. We receive information and knowledge in class. Other students participate and debate is promoted. The teacher explains the concepts, illustrates it with examples, he teaches us by doing one or two exercises, and there is a period for questions and answers. Nowadays the professors with smart-classrooms utilize the internet and interact with the students using precise and real information from the web (either a youtube video or by interacting with other institution students and professors via WhatsApp or messenger). In the case of an apprenticeship methodology, the experience of learning by doing is in a lab and sharing the discoveries with reports or by introducing the findings to peers in class.
- Homeworks: The students practice what they learned in class and then apply it by following a study guide, which accompanies the main textbook. Study guidebooks purpose is to make the student more proficient in the material covered in class. Study guidebooks are an aid to reading the textbook, a source of additional exercises, and an aid in reviewing the assimilation of the content to be prepared to pass the exams.
- Examinations: The teacher tests the student learning by passing tests, quizzes. Some points are offered by class participation and homework accomplished on time.
The studying-only model has utilized study-guides at almost every single course in primary, secondary and tertiary levels (university). Good reference books, usually have a study guide prepared by the authors. At the university level, the professor utilizes several reference books and prepares his or her own study-guides or exercises workbook from different study-guides. Teaching assistants are hired to guide the students to solve these problems.
Let`s stop here.
What is going on? As you can see this methodology is a very well organized step by step process to help the student to “study only”. But is this the model that helps the disciples to think creatively? Does this methodology trigger critical thinking? I doubt it. This is not what will make students to become efficient real-life problem solvers, or critical thinkers or strategic innovators. And guess what is worst, nowadays the “on campus lectures” are being replaced by the internet or MOOCs. We are in troubles… If we couldn`t produce critical thinking before, it won`t happen using digital tools either. Why? Because by changing the channel, we are not triggering critical thinking either.
In his book, Professor Bates states: “As student numbers have increased, teaching has regressed for a variety of reasons to a greater focus on information transmission and less focus on questioning, exploration of ideas, presentation of alternative viewpoints, and the development of critical or original thinking. Yet these are the very skills needed by students in a knowledge-based society”. Under this rationale, my personal point of view is: there are two relevant issues under the “studying only” model. The first one, students only get the first component of learning – the transmission of knowledge (regardless of the teaching methodology, or if it is shared digitally or not). And the second issue is that study-guides are not the way to create original – critical thinking. Critical thinking is not triggered by the studying only model. Critical thinking is not triggered by MOOCs. Why? Because critical thinking is difficult. Particularly when professors are not critical thinkers. It is insane to request critical thinking to professors who teach under the model of “Studying only” who follow study-guides ONLY and use the classroom ONLY to solve all the problems and exercises from the study guides.
Study-guides help to create critical thinking ONLY when they are seen as a side dish in the learning process, not the “core”. In addition, study-guide exercises must be designed to help learners to think holistically considering all the perspectives from an integral analysis.
Critical thinking is not going to happen automatically. It requires patience, it requires evidence, it requires to make mistakes and learn from them. It requires guidance from critical thinkers. And it requires time. Our brains are not machines. And it takes time to connect the dots. It takes time to answer the questions of the strategic innovation challenge when we are studying. It takes time to look for others point of views and debate about things. It takes time to look for the truth because no one has the right truth. Critical thinking it is not something that happens faster pretty damn quick as when you tick your smartphone applications.
Only when we understand that professors have to re-invent themselves to become critical thinkers through continuum research, study-guides will be seen as complementary material, not the core of the courses. And we will stop to see the lecture as it is right now. The challenge is to shift from “studying only” model to “learning by thinking before doing”model. This model will be explained in the last topic of this saga.
On my next publication, we will continue with the key strategic challenges for Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Stay tuned.
Some sources cited to write this article:
Disclaimer: All the presentation slides shown on this blog are prepared by Eleonora Escalante MBA-MEng. Nevertheless, all the pictures or videos shown on this blog are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.
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