More on the tyranny of content coverage

Leslie Madsen-Brooks just posted another excellent example of the kind of post I would flag and redirect to the UMW Teaching Center website if we had that ability.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I view my primary responsibility as teaching students how to think (from an economic perspective), not covering the breadth of content which is in most textbooks. If they’ve learned how to think, they can teach themselves any of the content we didn’t cover.

My favorite line in the post is where Leslie quotes Linda Hodges:

Our illusion is that we tell students the information that we want them to know, students who are motivated will absorb it, and our obligation to the discipline has been met.

The not-so-hidden assumption here is that we’re teaching to the gifted students, the ones who are worthy of induction into the society of the educated. They will learn the breadth of content, even if students of lesser ability will not.

I have two problems with this, first, I think we should be teaching to all of our students and I think all of our students are capable of learning. Second, there’s at least some evidence that gifted students learn only superficially, enough to ace the test, but not enough to learn the content deeply. If that’s true, then we’re really fooling ourselves.

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1 Response to More on the tyranny of content coverage

  1. I’m glad you found the post useful, Steve. My next post over there (in a week) will be about the role of centers for teaching and learning on college campuses, because I’ve noticed a number of posts lately where such centers are being called useless or meddlesome. Grrrrrrr.

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