Willful Blindness & Education

Thoughts about Higher Education

Both the education and the higher part of higher education is broken.Research is the only game in town and as that relies more and more heavily on private (read: commercial) funding the research game becomes more and more private (and trivial).

Research is the only game in town and as that relies more and more heavily on private (read: commercial) funding the research game becomes more and more private (and trivial).

In my last post, I presented the sorry state of affairs in equipping our graduates with thinking skills. The ability to engage in formal operational thinking may be inherent, but the skills necessary to use formal operational thinking must be taught. With up to 40% of our graduates unable to engage in formal operational thinking, we aren’t doing a good job of teaching it. This is what the higher in higher education stands for, higher thinking skills.

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Cognitive Development and Higher Education

Thoughts about Higher Education

Cognitive development across the lifespan throws up an interesting problem for us here in Higher Education.There is fairly widespread agreement that Piaget got his developmental stages pretty close to the mark as he described how people develop from infancy through to adulthood. Although there is some argument about the details, with some adjustments that have been made here and there, the basic premise has pretty well stood the test of time.

There is fairly widespread agreement that Piaget got his developmental stages pretty close to the mark as he described how people develop from infancy through to adulthood. Although there is some argument about the details, with some adjustments that have been made here and there, the basic premise has pretty well stood the test of time.

The quandary faced by the higher education community lies in the final stage of cognitive development proposed by Piaget. The formal operational thinking…

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Information Scarcity – Students

Although faculty and the institutions strive to keep the information scarcity model of information alive and kicking for their own benefit, students are just as resistant to change as the other two. This seems paradoxical as students are the primary beneficiary of a move to an information abundance model. We know that students gain little or … Continue reading Information Scarcity – Students

Information Scarcity – Faculty

Thoughts about Higher Education

Institutions embrace an information scarcity model because as long as information is scarce, it is worth something. That doesn’t explain why faculty members, who teach, continue to support an information scarcity model. I believe it is because of several factors: the reinforcement system, inertia, ease, and lack of interest.

Reinforcement

Reinforcement is a big factor. The university and college system have as their primary focusses things other than learning. In universities, the focus is research. As such, the reinforcement system in place is for research. Few, if any, faculty members receive monetary rewards (raises), real recognition, significant promotions, and peer approval for their prowess in teaching. If a person receives tangible rewards for research related activities (publications, grant capture, PhD students etc., space (labs) and assistants), those are the activities that will receive their time. I have worked in a research intensive institution and know faculty members who teach students…

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Information Scarcity – Institutions

Thoughts about Higher Education

Why would universities work under an information scarcity model of learning and resist moving to an information abundance model of learning?

I believe that there are several reasons such as research focus, efficiency of teaching, teaching rather than learning focus, and real – rather than stated purpose.

Research Focus

The definition of a university is a higher education institution that has research as the primary activity of the institution. Some would argue that the research interests come second to teaching, however, the reality is that research is the only game in town. The status and prestige of the institution is based on research and has nothing to do with teaching. Academic hiring and promotional opportunities pay lip service to teaching but are focussed on research activities with the few teaching only posts seen (and treated as) second class academics.

The very idea that teaching release is given for excellence in…

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Information Scarcity

The rise of universities in the C11-C12 was in response to the rise of merchants and traders who needed to keep track of their goods and exchanges in an orderly manner. There was also demand from traditional property owners to have access to those who knew the law and could prosecute or defend their interests … Continue reading Information Scarcity

Education is about Teaching

How could we take something as wonderful as learning, and turn it into something as oppressive as education? As parents, grandparents, and members of society, we know that education doesn’t work for many (or most) of our children. We send our children to school for years and years, and then follow it up with optional … Continue reading Education is about Teaching

Learning as an art?

I posed a question earlier asking If learning is not an art, why is teaching? A couple of comments on the post have prompted this blog post. Over the past 100 years or so, science has established a solid foundation of understanding how people learn. The principles are found in psychology, and not education, with very … Continue reading Learning as an art?