TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

What are the limitations that keep new educational designs from being implemented tomorrow in schools and especially in higher education?

School is my awful job and learning is my amazing hobby; This has been my take on life ever since and contrary to what I thought would happen, it hasn't changed in the last few months of college, when I have actually found that undergraduate studies aren't much different from its earlier analogous structures in what concerns quality of learning.
I figured something would change in college, it had to. No institution of higher education would, like it had always been done before, only try to standardize me through disengaging processes of memorization and mechanization in class, and then test me for it, but they did so, and so I keep dragging my feet through the halls like I always did, uninspired by it all.
Well, here I am watching 10 TED talks and having more fun than I had in any of my classes so far, where I am basically taught simple things as if they were complicated instead of the opposite.
I think the education systems we have are all about making us easily browsable encyclopedias of knowledge and funny looking calculators without ever compelling us to make our own connections between concepts and subjects, understanding them at their core or questioning the underlying mechanisms that drive the phenomena we study, but why? Why does this happen when we have computers that are infinitely better at storing data then our brain and when we know that in order to come up with creative solutions to real life problems we have to do so much more than just recall previous knowledge; also, there is an important link between the education of today and the leader of tomorrow, and if we continue using the educational techniques of yesterday then we will keep having the same uninspired (to say the least) leaders of today. Now my question is: Do you think this is a problem? Exactly what is causing this? Is it a economic or a sociological issue? Does the academic world want to solve this? Does the corporate world? Do the governments? Do you think it can be solved? How?


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Nov 10 2012: Is there any more widely discussed topic than this one? The quality of education and availability of it are so important, that I don't think one can reasonably suggest that those within the field as professionals and those outside are not continually engaged in discussing it.

    Your college experience is not everyones. Could you share what field you study?

    In my experience at university in the seventies, I barely had to memorize anything.

    My daughter who recently graduated from college was deciding at the beginning what to major in and by midyear sophomore year knew that she was attracting to the fields and courses that were about ideas and analysis and repelled by those in which memorization was a large feature. So she chose a field of study that suited her interests.

    I think one could inquire field by field what actually needs to be memorized and what doesn't. Terminology often needs to be remembered, or one is continually looking stuff up, even to understand people speaking.

    But I cannot visualize any field where that should be an emphasis. Scholars are thinking and experimenting, as well as being thoroughly familiar with and thus remembering the important work done by others as part of the learning that is the core of their work. Representing the fields with integrity should offer students the chance to do the same. I don't suppose when you say 'memorizing" you mean being thoroughly familiar with the important work in the field of study.
    • Nov 10 2012: Thanks for the reply Fritzie.

      I am in my first semester of a liberal arts and science education. My focus is on biology but I still haven't had any courses related to it yet so I'm currently taking English, Calculus, Psychology and Logic.

      Well, in my experience it is possible to take any field of study and teach it as something comprehensive and exciting or the complete opposite. And it all depends on the approach taken by the experts on how much content should be taught, what kind of content should be taught and the way it should be taught.

      For ex.: When teaching mathematics, if someone shows a formula on the board, they have two ways of having students remember and apply it correctly. Either they say "memorize this formula and apply it when you see x, y and z problem in the way I am going to show you" or they convey the meaning of the formula by decoding it and then explain why it is of good use in x, y and z problem and encourage their students to pose questions, doubts or even disagree with the presented statements.

      In the same way if someone is teaching history then they can prompt their students to memorize a flurry of dates, names and events or they can expose the events to the students by giving possible causes for the first event, it's date and intervening parts, then relate it to the second event and so on and so forth. This causes a difference in the quality of learning independently of the field of study being taught.

      Even thought the first approach is much faster, requires less effort on the part of the lecturer and it is equally as valuable if you want to ace an exam the second one is better if you really want to understand fully what you have learned or even just remember it 15 days after the exam has taken place.

      This is what I mean when I say that memorization is present throughout our educational systems that leave no room for real understanding and mastering of knowledge,

      I don't claim this to be universal, but it is in my experience!
      • thumb
        Nov 10 2012: I expect biology and organic chemistry will entail a lot of memorization and math, physics, and logic almost none.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.