Are Universities are Harming Education?

This one is probably going to ruffle a feather or two. Heck, maybe the whole bird. Upon reading the title, one might wonder how a university can hurt education. Well, let’s delve into it a bit.

First of all, let me say, not all universities are doing this. And to be fair, I should probably say something along the lines of “some university professors, faculty, staff, and others” but it just doesn’t ring the same. The staff is, by extension, a part of the university. Kinda.

Ok, so how are universities harming education? Ask a bunch of recent graduates with a degree in education how to create a unit of study for a subject. Pick a subject, any subject. Listen and count just how many of the “learning activities” are really glamorized art projects or some other task of extremely limited instructional worth. It seems that so many teachers want to end a novel study or some other unit with a project.

Now, that in and of itself is not a bad thing. The bad comes in when you figure out what the project is. Drawing pictures of the main character? Ummm… really? Maybe it’s a trifold board with story elements listed on it. Ummm… maybe not? Oh, I have it, maybe they are going to try to get that check box filled in on a formal observation for use of technology. They are going to have them type a summary of the story. Well, at least that one usually addresses a learning standard (or part of one anyway) but still… really? The sad thing is that so many of these folks feel that the projects the kids are doing are of a high DOK level. I have heard people say they are giving them a DOK 4 project to do in class one day, then explain that they are going to draw a picture of one of the scenes from the text and it will count as their final test grade for the unit. Go ahead, pick that one apart and see how many issues you can take with that one.

Now, how is that coming from universities? There are professors out there, and I really do think it is a minority of them, who push their students to use this type of “assessment”. It is all about the child feeling good about what they have created. Make sure the child had fun doing it, or your assessment is no good. Or so sayeth the  professor from the pulpit. There are actually professors out there saying that we should not ever have a kid read anything or write about anything they don’t feel like reading or writing about. Sure, in a perfect world, that might work. In reality, go ask a room full of 7th graders whether they would rather read  The Time Machine or SnapChat their friends all night. Yeah, that’s what I thought as well.

Whether it makes kids feel warm and fuzzy is not the objective. The objective is well, just that, the objective. The learning objective. Work is supposed to be rigorous. It is supposed to be taxing. It is supposed to “make their brain hurt” a bit. That is how we learn. We use high DOK questions and tasks. We tackle difficult texts. We discuss and debate. For some great info about high DOK questioning, get on Twitter and check out #DOKchat. Toss a question out there. Be ready, you will get some honest answers from the likes of Alice Keeler, myself, and several others.

So, next time you have a chance, ask a teacher how they “teach” a certain unit or novel and hang on for the ride. Please remember, I don’t claim the majority of professors are doing this. I do claim that there are some, and it is evident is some of the teachers coming out of some universities.

Please, for the sake of learning, make learning not only meaningful, but make it actual learning. Too many getting confused on what meaningful is. They think that simply means meaningful in a way that the student has fun. Ummm no.

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