Preface to the next few posts

For about the last month, I’ve found myself thinking deeply about questions I pondered when I first started blogging: What is learning? What should the objectives of college courses be? What should course grades be based on? This recent train of thought has been prompted by a number of things: the Course Redesign Conference sponsored by our State Council on Higher Education, a thought-provoking challenge from my challenging student, discussion in my First Year Seminar, the TIP Workshop on Student-Centered Learning, and finally, lunch with Martha. I plan to publish several blog posts on these questions shortly, but first let me provide some preliminary thoughts.

I’ve struggled to sort out the importance of content vs. skills, and product vs. process. All courses are some combination of content vs. skills. C Programming is probably more skills. Western Civilization is probably more content. Neither is more legitimate than the other as far as college-level learning goes. They are both relevant to education. This distinction has turned out to be a digression. I think the distinction between product and process is going to be more critical. I’ve been assuming that product is more important, more valid to education than process. What content and skills do we know at the end of the course vs. what have we done during the course? I’m not sure that’s correct anymore. How do we assess those options and how much should each be weighted in determining grades?

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2 Responses to Preface to the next few posts

  1. Gardner says:

    Interesting that we’re thinking along the same lines–my “theme parks and sandboxes” post is getting at some of these same questions in a complementary way. Obviously that NCAT conference, which I’ve yet to blog about alas, has catalyzed our thinking–a good thing, though I wish the occasion were less troubling.

  2. Chip says:

    I don’t say often enough how energizing it is to work with hugely talented faculty who — not content with that talent — are willing to question the fundamental notions that have shaped their profession. Steve’s post and Gardner’s reply are emblems of active and receptive minds, and the act of revealing to colleagues (including other faculty) and to students, believe it or not, a window into their deep thinking and their uncertainties on these issues is just stunning in its unselfconscious and unpretentious courage. Steve, I think your post is a mirror in a mirror: the wisdom is not in the answer, but in the question.

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