Monday, August 17, 2009


Bryan Bibb has a link to this excellent essay on pedagogy and the concept of learning.  There are any number of striking and intriguing bits in the paper, and I strongly encourage you to read it whether you are a teacher, student, or anybody else for that matter.  Which parts jumped out at me most strongly?

"Intellectual growth has been characterized as the progression from ignorant certainty to intelligent confusion" (15).  I don't think I know anybody with an advanced degree or similar expertise in their field who would disagree with that statement.  The whole section in which this quotation is found is about how our attitudes to knowledge and learning change and develop throughout the educational process.  Very interesting stuff.

The other bit that hit me really hard was a the point-by-point comparison of A and C students right at the end of the paper.  There are two tables on pgs. 24-25 that compare the skills, attitudes, and habits of successful and unsucessful students.  After reading these I would suggest that these tables aren't just about students, but in many ways could be re-applied to a variety of other social situations (the workplace and the home for instance).  What struck me most about these comparisons is that C students generally see themselves as victims and tend to take on passive roles.  This is especially notable in the second table.  Passivity is a major component in every "unsuccessful" box on that table.  This drives home an important truth that I think a lot people generally, and not just students, need to reflect upon.  Your education, your job performance, your family have the ability to affect all of these things.  I'm not so naive as to suggest that these social situations are totally within a person's individual control, but it's equally ridiculous to think that they are totally out of our control.  Your boredom with your classes, your complaints about your teachers, your whining about your boss or your co-workers, these are all things that you have the ability to affect.  They are, to some degree, your responsibility.  You will never find, in other words, an A student who doesn not take responsibility for her own education.  You just won't.

In any case, read the whole article, particularly if you're an educator in any capacity.


jon said...

"from ignorant certainty to intelligent confusion"


I think there are some C students who try, and have strengths in areas unassessed by the prof/teacher. but yeah, i'm one who believes a lot of people just don't know what they are capable of, or just need to admit they aren't really all that interested.

Colin Toffelmire said...

I totally agree that there are C students who work very hard, and who are active participants in their education but just don't have the skills necessary to succeed at formal education. This was actually the one box on those two tables that looked to me like it was totally outside of the control of the student.

Still, passivity is a real problem in education. Though as to the bit about unassessed strengths, that is often a case of passivity in a teacher. For real learning to take place everybody has to be an active participant.