The slippery slope of contemporary pedagogical philosophies

Many of our teachers have started to change the way they teach, whether to better connect with the “TikTok generation” or to assess us based on “more holistic criteria”. So, as students, we have become accustomed to the new style of work based on quantity rather than quality, and when we are asked to perform at a higher level, i.e. previously average, we are not always able to do this.

I will not call specific classes, but I will define a spectrum of pedagogy that roughly extends from traditional to new wave. The old way is basically to use a few substantial deliverables and maybe some class participation to make up the bulk of your grade. For example, an English class in which you write three 2,000-word articles and discuss a new novel every two weeks, or a computer science class with a midterm, final, and programming assignment every two weeks. weeks.

The new way is, to put it succinctly, everything everywhere at once. Consider, in a social studies class: a weekly post on the Sakai forum, readings twice a week, a few “longer” reading responses, taking turns leading a class discussion and/or a “creative” final project “. In a STEM course: readings for each term, a flipped classroom, projects, short assignments and labs with overlapping deadlines, many short quizzes, as well as shorter or take-home tests.

There is a difference between saying something and having something to say; spending more time doing tasks that require less of me, intellectually, seems counterintuitive. There’s no need to go beyond the minimum level of commitment, so it’s almost silly to go the extra mile to master the material rather than just getting by. When doing the least is enough, why risk doing anything else?

I feel like my intelligence is not respected when professors don’t consider me and my peers capable of doing more than just regurgitating course material and taking the next step intellectually to perform at a higher level. I’m pretty sure we all learned to read and summarize in elementary school, so I’d be curious to know the benefits of this style of teaching. I’ll be honest, I can’t stand these kinds of classes, and I’m now doing my best to avoid them as much as possible.

From what I understand, the professors think we like the new way of teaching – or we can’t handle the old one – and if that’s the first thing you’re exposed to university, you could base your expectations on it. It can also be difficult to do this heavy intellectual work once you get used to the new method. As students, we recognize that these new wave courses shouldn’t be taken seriously – just listen to your Pratt friends talk about their Trinity humanities requirements. Unfortunately, it also helps to reinforce the idea that some topics are less important than others.

I didn’t have what I would consider an actual paper, programming project, or exam until my second semester, because that first fall was all about new-style classes. Since I didn’t know Duke before the pandemic, I can’t say for sure how much it has changed the way our teachers teach, but at the time it was great; college was easy. This startling simplicity was in part due to the nature of virtual college classes during the pandemic and the fact that activities outside of school were limited. It might be difficult to reintroduce old standards after they have been naturally lowered due to the pandemic; however, those courses are definitely not finished yet, and once I started needing to take them, I got a hell of a wake-up call. My expectations were low, so putting my effort into reaching a reasonably placed bar felt unnecessarily painful.

I realized that personally, I learn when I have time to think. When I have more than a few days left for an assignment, I can spin it around in my head instead of having to grind it as quickly as possible. I don’t feel like this when I rush to write a forum post or finish interactive textbook activities an hour before they’re due, or when I have to teach myself all the necessary concepts before I can get started. the pair of assignments that are due two days apart.

Academic classes are similar to exercise. Just because you look like you’re putting in a lot of work doesn’t mean you’ll improve. you have to push yourself to progress, but you also have to be intentional about how much time you spend on it. Maybe being forced to sink or swim once in a while isn’t the worst thing – as long as a course is fair in its rigor, it can help you figure out what you like about it. learn more. Duke’s courses that have stood the test of time pushed me to synthesize the material to some intellectual degree, not just skim through the many superficial tasks to complete them.

As students, we should demand to be taken seriously and given work that will challenge us, not be tested on how many balls we can juggle simultaneously. I realized that if I want to learn things here, I have to actively seek out the kinds of courses that will force me to think, synthesize, and grow. We shouldn’t vilify teachers for trying to push us to work harder, nor should we just give 5 stars on Rate My Professors if a class was easy. On the other hand, professors should respect the abilities of us students and teach us in a rigorous but not necessarily task-oriented way. Our expectations adjust according to what is expected of us, but once we get used to the methods of the new wave, we may find it difficult to go back to the old, addressing those age-old fears. that led to the educational changes in the first place.

Heidi Smith is a junior from Trinity. His column is broadcast on Tuesdays alternately.

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