Sunday, March 28, 2010

Student vs. learner

Continuing on with the lecture I started writing about in the post "Learner vs. Performer," the lecturer talked about how students often make up excuses about why they can't do well in a class -- the class is too early in the morning, the class is too big, the subject material is not interesting or relevant, they are sick. (He said there are times when a student is legitimately sick and needs to miss class, but other times they use being sick as an excuse to miss class.)

Then he talked about doing a study of young chess masters. He asked the parents how they keep their children motivated to practice chess, and the parents said they don't have to, the kids are dedicated to it.

He talks about this contrast as if he's telling students they should show that same level of dedication to their classes. As if the problem lies with student attitude. But it sounds to me like the problem lies with the educational system.

The lecture also quotes Albert Einstein as saying, "I have no respect for scientists who take a board of wood, look for its thinnest part, and drill a great many holes where drilling is easy." The lecturer says this refers to professors who do easy research just for the sake of getting published.

It makes no sense. They set up a system where students are rewarded for getting good grades, and then they complain that students are more focused on grades than on learning. They set up a system where faculty are rewarded for number of publications, and then they complain that faculty are too focused on getting as many publications as possible. If you want students to focus on learning and faculty to focus on quality of teaching and research, don't set up a system which rewards something different.

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