August 12, 2011 by Roberto Salome
If there is one thing that college has taught me, it is that the grades you receive in a class are not always proportional to the amount of material you have learned.
In many cases, the amount of time and effort that one puts into a course has no effect on the final marking. All that matters is how much you crammed for that final exam worth 80 percent of your final grade.
The biggest problem with this system is that it detracts from the main goal of college: to get an education. Until recently, this is what I thought was the main goal. For the most part, this goal has remained unchanged. What has changed is the type of education students are receiving.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also believes that the education system in America needs some type of reform. From high schools not properly preparing students for college to universities failing to make the future leaders of the world, education needs to change to cater to each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.
As the job market becomes more competitive, companies are no longer looking to hire just “smart” people. Your diploma’s primary goal is not to show that you have mastered a certain subject. What your diploma does is show others that you have the ability to learn. From here, the employers know that they can teach you what you need to know to perform the job.
In today’s curriculum, every graduating student participates in many group projects. This is something else that your diploma signifies: that you have the ability to work with others. The problems faced in today’s world are more complex than before. They cannot be solved by just one person. Collaboration is a vital part of joining the workforce.
The part of education that is missing today is the part that enforces learning for the sake of learning. I am speaking about the part that has students trying new things, exploring new ideas and questioning new concepts without it being done for a grade.
As a student in the quarter system, the pace of each class is very quick. We rarely have enough time to finish all of the required work, let alone any supplemental work to enhance learning. As much as I would love to derive mathematical proofs for learned concepts or read additional novels written by authors covered in class, there is not enough time.
The only way to combat this problem is to lessen the amount of required work in the classes. This may seem like a counter intuitive move, and for some students, it may be detrimental. This type of policy would only benefit the students that are in college with the intention to learn. It will be a waste for all of those on a four- to five-year vacation paid by their parents. The kids who do not go to class because attendance is not checked are the ones that will ultimately fail. Even after entering the workforce, the results will be the same.
In this new methodology of teaching, a professor would hand out a syllabus with the topics to be covered in the class; this remains unchanged. In each class, the professor would go over what students should be learning. However, it would be up to the student to decide how to go about learning it. The professor would give examples and advice on how to go about learning, but none of it would be required.
At the end of the term, each student would hand in a final report with everything he or she has done. Professors could even require students to submit proof of all of the experiments they have done, or books they have read.
With the cost of higher education continually rising, students are taking out more loans than ever to help fund their college tuition. Once they graduate, many students are finding that they did not receive the education that they had anticipated. A degree students could customize to their own liking would keep students motivated and focused.
I believe an independent study program would be a great benefit to this generation of students. Since this type of schooling is not for everyone, only the most motivated would truly appreciate it. It may not be possible to completely change the current education system, but incorporating aspects that allow students to learn at their own pace is the next step.
While administering tests cannot be avoided, their overall importance can be altered. Ideally, a test can be passed once one fully understands the material. Instead, students are finding out in the current method that tests can be passed by selectively studying the “right” material and not retaining anything else.
A curriculum that judges students more directly on what they learn rather than on tests would help them receive a fuller education.
Roberto Salome is a junior majoring in computer engineering. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.