Friday, November 20, 2009

Hey! Check out us over here, in the ed school!

Articles like this one baffle me. If you don't feel like clicking through, here's a quick summary: professor of religion defends lecturing, believing that other forms of learning such as discussion can't take place without lecture first.

Now, what baffles me is not his conclusion. I don't have a dog in this fight. (If he argued that lecturing was the only valuable pedagogy, I certainly would take issue, however.) What I don't get is his mode of argumentation.

He refers to "conventional wisdom" and "entrenched opinions" and other synonyms throughout the article. Conventional wisdom says X, but his personal experience says Y. Ergo, X is wrong.

But why is he talking about conventional wisdom and opinions at all? There are scholars studying learning in a rigorous way in psychology, curriculum and instruction, and centers for teaching at nearly every college in the country. If the author was writing about chemistry, would he look to "entrenched opinions" for expertise? No, he'd look to chemists.

This happens frequently in conversations about higher education among scholars - despite being academics themselves, they seem to forget that there are academics dedicating their careers to understanding higher education and learning. Yet they re-invent the wheel and talk as if we know nothing about how education works. We're a long way from knowing everything, admittedly. But trust me, there are studies on how much students retain from various modes of teaching, and one person's experience doesn't add much of anything to our knowledge.

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