Teaching is changing

There are two very prominent moments when how students were taught changed dramatically. Today, a third seems to be emerging.

֎ The first moment was when the ‘University’ of Bologna was created in 1088. It was a defensive legal gesture to protect young people who were not citizens who otherwise would be charged with reparation fees. As the university became a permanent institution over the next decades, instructors were hired to teach many of the subjects that still exist in today’s curricula. Today the University of Bologna remains one of the premier universities in the world.

֎ The second moment occurred when the first grades were issued at Yale in the year 1785, when President Ezra Stiles, after examining 58 seniors, recorded in his diary that there were ‘Twenty Optimi, sixteen second Optimi, twelve Inferiores, ten Pejores.’ By the 1850’s what a student learned was defined strictly by their grades, not by what they may have actually learned in terms of usefulness and applicability. The pejorative term for learning something just to get good grades is ‘bullimic learning’ loosely interpreted as “compulsive studying usually followed by self-induced test taking”

Everyone is familiar with contemporary grading from primary to post graduate studies. Refinements include grade averaging with GPA, SAT, and even social accomplishment as a comparative. Disparities have grown reflected through race, class and prestigious selection.

֎ Today, however, things are changing. The transition has been gradual, more an effort to accommodate the psychological wellbeing of pre-schoolers; recently the new approach has seeped into primary grades. Speaking very broadly, students are taught in small groups and the group is “graded” on its accomplishments – which often are not strictly about the ABCs – and students are not individually graded.

Ironically, for many decades in the corporate world employees are made part of a team whose job is to accomplish some new goal or function. The team gets the credit while individuals benefit by being a member. The experience almost entirely is one of learning useful and applicable knowledge.

The future of higher education will use integrated, multi-subject classes, job-focused education and move beyond the two or four year model to provide lifelong learning. Successful universities must aggressively prepare their institutions to avoid further disruption.

It is likely that the line between corporate employment and college enrollment may become a continuously integrated relationship. Collaboration with unions, trade associations, libraries and other peripheral organizations is likely.

Ancient Mariner

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