Wednesday, August 19, 2015

New directions in teaching

From The Chronicle of Higher Education, an article on the use of “machine teaching”: “The hope is if we can quantify the student’s learning process, then maybe we can come up with a more efficient curriculum or lesson.”

Two observations:

This model of teaching allows for no possibility of conversation or improvisation or discovery: it is always already clear “what knowledge [the researcher] wants to impress upon the learner.” I think of the “little vessels” in the opening scene of Dickens’s Hard Times , schoolchildren waiting to be filled with facts.

This model of teaching assumes that efficiency is a desirable end. But what counts as “a more efficient curriculum or lesson”? Is it inefficient to spend a semester teaching Infinite Jest ? Is it inefficient to spend a class meeting on a single Dickinson poem? Or two or more hours looking at a single painting? What would a “more efficient” approach to such works involve? What would be gained and lost in taking such an approach? And why didn’t Socrates just come out and say what he meant instead of asking all those questions? Not a very efficient philosopher.

Related posts
Models for education (Sages, guides, and improvisation)
New directions in assessment (Scanning brains to determine the effects of college)

[I twice had the pleasure of spending a semester on Infinite Jest, and I spent many a class meeting looking at single poems. But I don’t know how to spend hours looking at a single painting.]

comments: 5

Diane Schirf said...

Weren't the children in Bradley's class (Our Miutual Friend) also vessels to be filled?

Michael Leddy said...

If they are, I haven’t gotten to the passage. But the teacher’s mind is likened to “place of mechanical stowage” — same idea.

Fresca said...

"And why didn’t Socrates just come out and say what he meant instead of asking all those questions?"

*snorts with laughter*

Michael Leddy said...

Thank you. I hope you weren’t drinking milk.

Fresca said...

Luckily not. :)