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Issues to Consider: Helping Students Change

Professors should emphasize lifelong learning skills

Why do students’ learning roles need to change?
As Nobel laureate Herbert Simon, has pointed out, knowing has shifted from being able to remember and repeat information to being able to find and use it. “More than ever, the sheer magnitude of human knowledge renders its coverage by education an impossibility.”

What does the research say?
Research tells us that to really learn something takes attention, time, practice, effort, reflection, connection, and application—learning is not short-term regurgitation (Ratey, 2001). Our students must take a much more active role in their learning if they are to deeply know and have the lifelong learning skills they will need to compete in a global environment.

So what is the role of content in my courses?
The role of content must be to drive the development of the lifelong learning skills, thinking abilities, and communication skills crucial to students’ success—content is not an end in itself. For example, current professions, careers, and jobs require people who can:

  • Effectively communicate in a wide variety of ways with very diverse populations.
  • Use information to solve problems that will occur in different contexts than the context the information was first taught in.
  • Transfer information to solve new problems that have yet to even be discovered.
  • Use reasoning skills that require addressing multiple pieces of data at once.

How can faculty help students to change?
Let the students do the work. Use firsthand learning, self- discovery, self-assessment, performance, and team work. Let discussions take place between students—keep our mouths shut! Have discussion guidelines that require everyone to participate.
Help students to see that effort results in improved intelligence and abilities—effort is not an indication of a lack of ability.

What kinds of learning activities are best?
Use learning activities that are A-R-I-I:
-Authentic Assignments that reflect what the information and skills will be used for in their careers.
-Relevant Use guest speakers and former students to help map the connections between course material and career work and lifelong learning skills.
-Interesting Students arrive motivated; teachers need to discover what is motivating them (Zull, 2002). Having some say in what and how to learn keeps students engaged.
-Important No busy work. Value the work assigned. Value in our students’ minds means the work gets graded.

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