1. Durl

    Yes, we need to teach students HOW to think instead of WHAT.

    My favorite course in my college years was a graduate level physical chemistry class. We could bring any reference book/books we wanted for the exams. Why? Because the lectures and homework we had was designed to teach us to think about how to approach new problems in physical chemistry. We were guaranteed to have problems on our tests that we had never seen before, and the instructor kept his promise. But, this was very liberating … because there was no real need to study for the test. If you’d followed the lectures and done due diligence on the homework assignments, and asked questions about things you did not understand, then you were totally prepared for the exams.

    You could tell those who “got” this, and who did not. The ones who “got it” brought 1 or 2 useful reference books to look up a formula if needed. Those who did not “get it” brought 10+ books in the hopes that they could find the exact problem we were given.

    • Bookscrounger

      That’s a really good point. In my practice of medicine, I don’t spend time memorizing stuff, so I often don’t ‘know’ as much as my colleagues. But when I’m uncomfortable I hit the books or the computer, and sometimes I find things everyone else misses. (We had a really weird one the other day, had everyone stumped. Looking at it and thinking about it I finally decided it had to be a variation of something we see all the time. Google ‘zoster sine herpete.’ Nobody had ever heard of it, including the editor of my favorite Internet medical reference.)

      Which is related to this topic: popular concepts of intelligence focus on memory and rapidity, which if you think about it is the conformation to authority. But I think real intelligence is the ability to process and analyze information, and to be ability to question what authority has told us.

  2. Anne

    I try to do that in my classroom. I don’t give answers, and most of their assignments are writings and/or projects in which they have to use sources and thought to compile. My students utilize their literature books as well as the usual reference books and grammar books. Questions are welcome, as long as they are pertinent. “Look it up” is a familiar saying here. We do memorize, but it’s background stuff so that they can use it more effectively. I received an email from a former student who used the Latin stems we learned in his job as a medic on the front lines of Afghanistan. I think that was useful memorization. Other than that, we debate, discuss, and write about literature….and, of course, they question.

    • Bookscrounger

      Education has certainly improved since that engraving was made, and I would guess that you are excellent at what you do. I have heard teachers talk about how much harder their jobs are because of the frequent national, state and school board mandates; as an active teacher, I can’t imagine you could write an essay about the problems that teachers face. But if you know any recent retirees, I’d love to run an article about the problems of teachers and students.

      • Anne

        My sister retired recently. I think she may be able to enlighten you. Some of those things you mentioned are reasons she retired as early as she did. Teaching the students I do is one reason I’m still teaching. Things are much better for us in Calcasieu Parish this school year than they’ve been in a few years. Thank you for the compliment. If I haven’t learned to do my job well by this point, then I should retire! I’ll check with Kathleen to see if she is interested. Always enjoy your work and the mental excercise it brings me!

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