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Eugene Frier

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How can we best engage college students in the idea of learning instead of just getting a degree?

I work at a 4 year, public university and I see a great deal of students who come to school to get their degree (which they equate to money/success) and do not care about learning. What are your thoughts on the best way to engage them in the actual process of learning. I have my thoughts, but would love to hear my fellow TEDsters thoughts.

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  • Mar 14 2013: I spend almost 8 years in higher education. 4 years of those were about 'getting a degree' the other 4 about learning... The students' attitude has to do with the general attitude of society. The first time I went to college I wanted to become a teacher because I knew it would bring 'bread on the table' (also because I was a little inspired by other teachers). It was perhaps not the best choice I ever made but those 4 years allowed me to grow and understand myself better.
    So after that, I felt I was stronge enough to go my own way and after a little detour in egyptology I ended up studying my greatest love: history. I studied it because I loved it, because I could learn from it.

    The problem with most students nowadays is the fact that society dictates that you have to be succesfull in order to be accepted. And the only way to be that is to be a big earner. Society shows us that the only way to do that is by having a degree that will lead to a well payed job. If we want students 'to learn instead of to earn' we need to show them that chosing money over heart only leads to emptyness. They are blinded by society's story of success and consumption. If we want to engage students we'll need them to want to make the change themselves.

    Modern society is not about making independently thinking, strong individuals of people but rather to make them productive citizens that do not question authority and unless we can change that we will not be able to engage students to learn rather than to earn.
    • Apr 4 2013: Two thumbs up, Kim. I absolutely agree with this and I remember a quote I heard a long time ago that says "you can only lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink" and that's the biggest thing about education and school itself. As an undergrad student right now, I found exactly what it is I enjoy doing and that makes the learning portion of it so fulfilling. Whether or not my professor is enthusiastic does not really bother me because either way I WANT to learn and will therefore find ways to accommodate different teaching styles for the sake of learning. I see a lot of people around me who only want that piece of paper at the end of their 3 or 4 years, not picking up a single thing on the journey and that's just not the way to live! If you're going to be there a few years anyway, why not pick up a thing or two along the way, right?
      • Apr 10 2013: Exactely!
        In my field, history, it is mostly because of the love of learning. At my unirsety they started with almost 400 students in the department of history. Some of those do it because they want to be teachers but most of us, we just love history. The problem within our field , with the education, is that it doesn't leave much room for exploring. Everything is dogma. It kills our sense of renewal. If you try to step outside of the beaten track of scientific history your professors will put you down. In that way even the study of history has been corrupted by the wil of society. For example, all of our academic career we are told that historians can not judge, only analyze. This implies howevwe, that we are not allowed to learn from it either. I think this is wrong, we should be able to use history in daily life, learn from it so we do not make the same mistakes again.
        This is why I did not cosider a academic career, I want to be able to see history through the eyes of a spiritual person. I want to be able to use my imagination, something that is a taboo in the science.

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