No Surprises?

“Let me see if I can state what is bothering you. I could tell you before the test what to study, what material you should memorize to do well, but I’m not doing that.” She smiles a little and says, “Yes.” I continue, “I could do that, I could tell you, exactly, all that you need to know. I could tell you what to memorize. But I don’t. And you can’t understand why I don’t.” She smiles more broadly. “Yes. Yes! That’s it. Why don’t you tell us?”

This illustrates what I believe is an underappreciated and growing problem in higher education: a large number of undergraduates, as well as even some graduate students, believe that the instructor’s main function is to tell the students what to memorize. And if the students duly so memorize, they believe they deserve A’s. —Craig M. NewmarkNo Surprises? (The Irascible Professor)

Thanks Josh (who suggests this in a comment attached to “A Student’s Plea: Give Me Something Known“).

I just had an hour-long conversation with a high school senior who has been accepted to Seton Hill University in the fall, but is still considering his options. He’s being recruited for a sports team, and is also interested in broadcast journalism. SHU doesn’t have a broadcast program; there is no TV or radio station, so at first I thought the interview would be pretty short. But this student also seemed attracted to the entrepreneurial focus of our school. The fact that men’s athletics are expanding so rapidly here (SHU was only recently converted to an officially coeducational institution) means greater access to leadership positions.

I told him that a big school with an established journalism program would be able to prepare him more efficiently to step into the profession, but a specialized broadcast journalism professor teaches a class of thirty freshmen exactly how to do broadcast journalism would be something of an assembly line education. Of course the large school will have access to more resources, but being a big fish in a small pond has its own benefits.

I hope I was able to tap into this bright young man’s entrepreneurial instincts and a love for learning. I told him that multimedia projects involving streaming online video would fit very nicely into the new media journalism program (but that he might think in terms of a series of related documentaries rather than a weekly TV show), and he floated the idea of setting up a live webcast of home sports games. Sounds technologically feasible, but I told him he wouldn’t just be able to walk into a studio and flip a switch — we’d have to talk with the tech guys and create a plan from scratch. Somebody who is willing to do that — to think beyond the parameters of a pre-packaged lesson plan — is a student who is ready to learn.