New Literacy Strategies

Seth Roberts recently reflected on the New York Times article The Future of Reading | A New Assignment: Pick Books You Like with his own piece entitled Student Power.  Seth delivers his own constructive criticism regarding the American higher education system (emphasis his):

1.  Students in a class are treated all alike. They’re not. All hear the same lecture, read the same texts, do the same homework assignments, take the same tests. I came to realize that my students differed greatly in their talents and career goals.

2.  Professors teach how to be professors. Most students don’t want to be professors…“Teaching students to think” was a common way to describe teaching students how to be professors.

Seth concludes by stating:

Giving students more power over what they learn solves, or at least reduces, both problems.

I’d add that one of the failures of the education system as a whole is that there is too much time, energy and money spent on forcing assignments and material on stubborn students.  “Student power” is a strategy to smooth these inefficiencies, assuming the students learning willingly.

This is a guest post from Alex J. Mann.  You can subscribe to his blog here and follow him on Twitter here.



One response to “New Literacy Strategies”

  1. Cedar

    The “forcing assignments and material on stubborn students” problem does not necessarily have to be remedied by more student choice. I think the problem of pedagogy is a far greater one. I would much rather be forced to take a class that happened to be taught by a creative, inspirational, and engaging professor, than be allowed to choose my own assignments and material and guided by a bore. Part of the problem is that the priority of the modern research university is to create new knowledge, not to educate people. Professors are hired (or not), tenured (or not) based solely on their research skills, rather than their ability to engage and educate students.
    However, increased student choice is not the panacea that some imagine it to be. For example, statistics and research design may not be a priority for someone who wants to be a practicing psychologist, but understanding the logic of the scientific method, and some basic reasoning skills about data are crucial for evaluating the effectiveness of new therapies (not to mention statistical claims in the newspaper).
    But yes, most professors teach us how to be them, because that is what is easiest (for everyone, really), and there is no incentive to do otherwise.