Sunday, October 17, 2010

The semester has started (and is about half way over) and all is good. I've been able to coordinate a reading group discussing How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School and the discussions have been really good. I think that it's something that the participants are finding valuable. If nothing else, it's getting a handful of folks from across campus to interact who wouldn't typically interact. So, I'm feeling good about that.

In fact, I'm working on a proposal for reading groups next semester one focused on Parker Palmer's Courage to Teach with the idea being to help faculty find our teaching 'voice.' And the other will be focused on a book about student learning (right now I'm thinking of Nurturing Independent Learners: Helping Students Take Charge of Their Learning but we'll see).

Anyway, to the less good things I've discovered. This is stuff that just regularly goes on that I'm typically unaware of.

#1) I've been told (and had it confirmed) that at least one 'division' at school honestly doesn't like students. I'm guessing that the students they like are viewed as the exception rather than the rule. This just makes me really sad for the faculty and the students alike.

#2) I have had quoted at me, twice in one day on separate occasions, a professor who has students take a class identifying their 'strengths and weaknesses' and who, on the students' interpretation, tells the students to spend their time focusing on further developing their strengths and not to waste time on turning weaknesses into strengths. Good lord, who does this? The one student who was telling me this was upset because her desired major was not in keeping with her strengths. I noted that just because something is currently not a strength is not a reason to think it can't be a strength since your strengths are just things you haven't had much practice in. The second time I heard it was in defense of the basic premise that there's no point in trying to change and grow.

Now maybe the faculty member didn't intend for this to be what the students heard, but it seems to me a fairly predictable consequence of telling students to focus on developing strengths instead of trying to create new ones. How many physicians didn't like the sight of blood the first time they saw it? How is this piece of advice not a suggestion to not learn and not explore new ideas or skills?

More later.

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