Thursday, December 04, 2014

How to revolutionize education

I believe that we need to change the way we teach. But not the way you probably think. Watch this video to see what's really important about teaching.




Hat Tip: Alex Palazzo, who I hope will help us make the transition to 21st century teaching.

14 comments :

  1. very nice. I taught Physics for many years and it is entirely right

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  2. Interesting - as a student, the only thing I strongly disagreed with was what Alex said was most important - making students "feel important [and] accountable." Nah. I didn't give a damn whether the best teachers I've had made me feel important. Accountable? Sounds like a buzzword. Of course you're accountable. If not, you get a lousy grade. Feels like a transaction and not much interesting about it.

    Nope, Alex got a lot closer just before that when he talked about inspiration and excitement. The best teachers got me so interested and excited about their subjects that I went way beyond accountable. I'd do extra work just so I could learn more about something that seemed so amazing and wonderful. Yeah, "amazing and wonderful" to describe geometry, calculus, a history of the English lower classes in the 18th century, 19th and 20th century American literature, a Shakespeare class taught by a British literary critic....

    Dr. Moran, what got you interested enough in biochemistry to want to make a career of it? Was it feeling "important and accountable"?

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    1. Just wanted to point out that Alex is Dr. Moran's colleage at UofT, while the video is hosted/created by Dr. Derek Muller of the youtube channel Veritasium (which is a great channel btw).

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    2. I agree - feeling important and accountable seems, at best, pointed at circumstances that might prevent learning if they are sufficiently out of balance. But to trigger the actual learning, it is not enough to make the student feel as if this is their job - in fact, that seems rather counter productive. Make them want to learn because it feels interesting and/or relevant to their lives. (And we already knew that that works.)

      Remember all those stories along the lines of "in school we studied book X by author Y. No, I never want to read anything by Y in my life"? And remember also how Harry Potter made lots of kids want to read? That is not an accident. That demonstrates that motivation is extremely important ... and it better not be motivation by force.

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  3. A caring and motivating teachers will never... ever be replaced by a computer... just like a mother or a grandmother never will... Universities try to save a buck but they create a nation without social skills and abilities of adequate interactions... Students can no longer communicate unless they are textin or facebooking...
    Welcome to the 21st century of electronic morons...!

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  4. When my colleagues were hyping e-learning recently I replied was that learning is something that happens between the ears of a student.

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  5. The notion that the teacher sells the lesson has been a staple of administrative thinking for decades. That's why student surveys assessing the popularity of the teacher are so often taken very seriously indeed. Or why the informal assessment of whether the teacher is liked matters so much. The notion that all it takes is salesmanship is very American, but the kind of incentives given to salesmen are not given to teachers. I've no idea why anyone expects good salesmen should then go into teaching when the big money is in real estate or cars or pharmaceuticals.

    Science salesmen of course have the perception that only geeks, dweebs, nerds, grinds, wonks, etc. know science to overcome. Or in the case of girls,that only the dogs know science. Or that knowing science means rejecting God. Or that working hard is sucking up to the teacher.

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  6. I was taught many years ago that all the research in teacher effectiveness pointed to one thing. the only quality that all effective teachers had in common was that they were nice people. I suppose this could be translated as good sales persons.

    I personally have learned more biology from the internet than from two years in school and college. What matters is not the form that information takes, but the need to present an argument that doesn't look stupid to ones peers.

    I had an advanced algebra course in high school that was effective. The teacher was the opposite of a nice person. He was a Snape. An anti-semitic neo-nazi. cruel and verbally abusive. But what he did that was effective was require students to present homework problems and their solutions to the class. Not a particularly new or enlightened idea, but I remember a lot from that class.

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  7. I was a lousy student until junior year in high school, when I started getting interested in the subjects being taught (except "English"). And it wasn't a teacher that inspired me, I just wanted to be a scientist. Yeah, I was always a nerd, but I was a bored, uninterested nerd until I got old enough to learn stuff that was advanced enough to be interesting.

    My take is bad teaching can really turn students off, especially the less interested ones, but good teaching can't replace the need for maturity on the part of the student. I don't have much sympathy for attempts to make the lower grades more rigorous, it doesn't really matter whether kids learn fractions in the 4th grade or the 6th, so long as they do learn it.
    A main part of elementary school is just warehousing the kids so the parents don't have to worry about them. Making elementary school harder won't really teach them much that they can't pick up quickly later,but it may turn them off "school" altogether, so when they are ready to learn, they won't want to.

    Anyway, very thought provoking video and comments. Welcome back Professor Moran, we missed you!

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    1. I agree that people are different, and that schools somehow need to accommodate different rates of maturity. Some people shine from an early age, and some don't turn on until their 20s.

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  8. Moran unwittingly makes a case for teaching intelligent design in the biology class.

    How so? Well if what goes on 'inside the student's head' is the key to learning, then trying to deprogram 'religious training' is a losing game. What interests the majority of students (who just happen to be religious) is a design paradigm. That will motivate these students to learn biology faster.

    So what Moran should sincerely consider is his ulitmate goal? To teach biology in as effective a way as possible (which would seem to entail tailoring classes to activate different motivational mechanisms like design for the religious minded, darwinism for the atheist, etc) or would it be as a pretext to compel deprogramming of a particular portion student socialogical experience to further a philosophical and/or personal goal?

    Counter trend trading almost always leads to financial ruin. In the same vein, trying to counter the overwhelming evidence for design in nature is foolhardy; a vainglorious endeavor.

    Better to stick with the design trend. It will pay more pedagogical dividends.

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    1. I read that as "Teach students lies, falsehoods, and nonsense because those are the only things most students are capable of learning."

      What is the point of successfully teaching a pile of garbage?

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  9. My most inspiring teacher was my high school Biology teacher. He was also the worst teacher I ever had, all the way through grad school: hated teaching, hated us, pretty much hated Biology, as far as we could tell. So he left a bunch of Scientific American articles on the back bench, told us to read them, and went out to smoke. The first one I picked up was by Francis Crick on the genetic code, or maybe DNA (I read both). My fate was sealed, even though I didn't know it.

    My experience as a student and as a University faculty member for 35+ years make Alex's point blindingly obvious.

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