the dry run

A blog post today from higher ed thinker Dave Eubanks includes this observation:

If we want achievement, we should cultivate curiosity and intrinsic motivation, and this is a completely different pedagogy than lecture-test-certify.

He laments:

Students aren’t expected to achieve anything real, just pass tests. Ironically perhaps, this is absolutely not true in athletics, where it’s not enough to play a good practice game. Nobody really cares about that.

I like that analogy to practicing.  College would probably be more interesting to students, and its graduates more valuable to the rest of us, if we could see it not as the time for stockpiling knowledge but as a dry run for the future.  Cribbing again from Dave:

The Internet allows the kind of direct engagement with the world that makes this achievement possible in all areas of study.

starting-block(And it’s a short post – I’ve just about quoted the whole thing.)  Think of that, the power of real-time ubiquitous connectedness, to give students a chance to experience and perhaps influence the world under faculty supervision.

It resonated with me because I’ve recently been in a couple of meetings that foregrounded this.

With other members of a College Board advisory group, I met virtually with teenagers doing real-world research as part of an Advanced Placement Capstone experience in development with Cambridge.  The Deerfield Academy students described an interdisciplinary, problem-solving approach to understanding the world’s use of water.  They conducted on-line research, reached out to experts around the world, and presented integrated arguments, all as part of high school coursework designed to bear college credit.

And then a couple of days ago, the idea came up again on a call with research leads on the project “Give Students a Compass.”  Kay O’Neill, Director of Workforce Development at Cañada College, recommended the recent book The Nature of the Future: Dispatches from the Socialstructed World, by Marina Gorbis.  She said its arguments about the changing nature of work, corporations, and education are a good fit for the kind of changes we’re trying to make with the GE transfer curriculum.

IMG00151-20130426-1642This idea seems everywhere – clear down to primary schools.  A story on the PBS Newshour a couple of nights ago depicts children at King Middle School taking on actual problems with energy in the third world, as a way to hook even the reluctant into STEM fields.

I know that in California’s public postsecondaries, we do a lot of such work already.  I wish we did more of it together.  In the world of transfer curriculum, it still looks too little like a dry run, and a lot like what Dave calls lecture-test-certify.

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