Marco Masi

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What about an education revolution in universities?

An education revolution is always discussed in the frame of schools, high school, but rarely for University. Is the new education paradigm good only for children? Must students in colleges and universities continue to adopt the old system, because no new education paradigm is possible for higher education? I have precise ideas on that you can read in my profile section (for more details see:, and my answer is: no! Also the way we study and make research in universities and research centers should change. Also here we should reconsider the role of exams and grades. Also in colleges a free progress study should be allowed. Do you agree? What is your opinion? I'm looking forward for people willing to work on this idea!

  • Sep 6 2013: Universities would improve greatly if they adopted Socratic methods and left didactic methods behind.
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    Sep 9 2013: Marco, I was enrolled in a terrific program at Stanford University my first year. It was called S.L.E. (Structured Liberal Education). Basically it was a Western Civ course, but much more intense than most first year university students take. Most of our units for the first year, and our time and effort, were in fact consumed by our S.L.E. units. The other thing was that it was heavily residence-based, in other words the same 60 students who were taking the course all lived in just three dormitories in the same complex, 20 in each dorm. Thus the same people you went to class with were the people you lived with, and it led to many intellectual conversations in the dorms. Also, all the classes were taught in those same three dorms, and several of the SLE professors had apartments in those dorms where the discussion sections for the program met. Altogether it was wonderful.

    If you want to check out a really radical school, check out This is a school in the California desert. Only 20 students attend, 10 freshmen, 10 sophomores. All are on full scholarship, but have to work on the school's cattle ranch. All, or almost all, placed in the top 1% on SAT, college aptitude test. Students largely govern the school, sitting on the admissions board and board of trustees. I was invited to apply, I did apply, but not accepted.
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    Sep 6 2013: Thank you Marco for raising the point. Having studied both engineering fields and social sciences at university, I do agree with you. I believe the current system is totally out dated since it has its roots in industrial revolution and partly modernism periods where "seeing was believing", and thereby "not seeing was not believing". Times when "one size could easily fit all"
    The system has been handed down to us devoid of our vibrant atmosphere in which human being has gained a new meaning. I do believe that the current system is totally inefficient in meeting let alone fulfilling our needs.
    To me it is more or less like plowing a farm by using bulls and horses. We need much more than that; we are desperate for a totally fresh wave.
    However, I am confident that it is taking place slowly but surely since with progress, change is inevitable.
    Finally, I believe what TED guys are doing is a great contribution to the revolution we expect in education.
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      Sep 6 2013: A Sharif: Yes, frankly I'm not seeing much change too. I do not judge the American system which I'm not directly acquainted with. However, in Europe there are at best only cosmetic changes, if any. Sometimes we delude ourselves with some reform or superficial change, but, as I use to say, university was and still remains an authoritarian system that didn't change much since centuries. The pedagogic foundations remain the same: a professor that forces in students brain something, students repeating as a parrots the acquired knowledge, exams and certifications. And I agree with you that TED is the only place were one can breath some new fresh air.
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    Sep 6 2013: As always Fritzie is on top of this and I bow to her knowledge and insight in this area ... however that does not stop me from questioning. The problem at Universities is not that far from the issues at K - 12. If you take federal / state monies / grants etc ... you must also live by the rules to obtain that money.

    If Arne Duncan says the university shall commit to his guideline in order to receive federal funding then you will. His stated goal is to socialize education in the US. He did not state K - 12 ... he said education. The push now is on STEM at all levels. I can foresee the money for the Arts becoming less and diverted to the STEM areas at all levels.

    Most universities and colleges have a research department that receives funds from the government or corporations. This is a lifeblood for most schools in combination with student assistance (also from the federal).

    The point is that many decision of how to provide change is restricted.

    It is the Golden Rule .... He who has the gold rules ... in this case it is the feds.

    I suggest this because it is a factor in your planning.

    Be well .... Bob.
  • Sep 6 2013: I agree that universities need to change especially in evaluation - check out the latest reports on law schools. Many of the better schools have always and have expanded the interplay with real world problems and creating integrated learning.

    Unfortunately, the 2nd tier and 3rd tier schools are losing funding and are being forced to change not in a good way. They will need a lot of direction to change.
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    Sep 5 2013: i totally agree with you being a engineering student we have to study 8 semesters,45 subjects,14 different labs,144 internals and 59 exams within 4 years. we are studying so many subjects but we don't have any practical knowledge on how things work in real world all our colleges and universities are just interested whether the students are passing the exams or not. Companies are training universities students on how to implement the things we have studied in real world application. So can't we be educated in such a manner that we can be ready to work from day one after joining a company. Its like we know how a Internal combustion engine works and to calculate the efficiency etc etc but not knowing how to change a spark plug if we have a problem with it.
    • Sep 6 2013: I understand your concern and part of me agrees. But you need to know the basics before you can solve the problems. I also agree universities need to change but they are changing. My son went to Harvey Mudd College and most of the students do projects. These projects are real life problem presented by companies and the companies pay 50k and they own the research. Some projects take 2-3 years. I have been on both sides of the hiring table and what i look for are:

      1. knowledge of the basics and the ability to apply it to unknown problems
      2. problem solving
      3. ability to learn
      4. ability to think
      5. ability to communicate (both written and spoken)
      6. ability to work within a team
      7. ability to listen
      8. flexibility

      I also like students that have coop/intern experience.

      and learning how to change a spark plug is something you learn outside of school
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        Sep 6 2013: i totally agree with you here in our university we are also made to do a project in our final year but unlike your son's situation we have to select projects on our own and implement it with the help of a faculty. All i am saying that we should be given with series mini projects before letting us do the final project that gives a real world idea on what we will be getting into . Getting internships are pretty slim but even if we get a Internships the problem is we have 6 days of college a hectic syllabus to study so a student has to manage both at same time. We hardly get a fortnight of semester break between semesters.
        • Sep 6 2013: The coop and intern is either an entire summer or semester/s. I have had coop students that worked for me for a full year. This gave them time to really accomplish something and they are paid like an engineer and treated like one by me.
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        Sep 6 2013: Thank you Wayne for your view. I find it both unbiased and enlightening.
        But I still wonder, except for those highly prestigious universities, where else is the change taking place.
        I do agree that it is in progress, but I wonder how long it might take for universities in less developed societies to even start their progress. Ironically, such societies are in severe need for the change more than any other society.
        • Sep 7 2013: there are 2 things

          1. teaching is a performance art and teachers,professors are not taught that and they have to learn it on the job - some never do because they are not rewarded for it.

          2. teachers and education is highly respected in developing nations but this also restrict changes - this respect helps and hinders.

          I just saw how tutors in Singapore are considered "rock stars" because they are the most successful in getting their students into top universities. It is almost a market driven event.
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        Sep 6 2013: wayne uejio, do we really need to know the basics before we can solve problems? I'm not sure about that. My experience is that I solve problems much better if I first get the problem to solve itself, and then look for the basics that allows me to find the solution. IMHO, one of the fundamental errors of a universal didactical mindset is that to believe that there must be first the learning (basics), and only after that the doing (problem solving). Whereas, I believe we should shift our conception towards a learning AND a doing at the same time. This would also answer with Karthik CR's complain.
        • Sep 7 2013: Randy Pausch's Last Lecture.

          In this lecture,Randy in one section pushes the need for basics.

          Let me see if I understand you. You get a problem, you propose a solution and then you try to fit the basics into your proposed solution.

          What I think you are against is not the basics but the rules we have placed on thinking - That i would agree one must learn when to break the rules.
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      Sep 6 2013: Karthik CR, you are right in complaining that there is not much focus on practical knowledge in college and universities. However, the question is what is the right way to learn that? Internships at companies? Enhancing laboratories? Learn to use machines? Well, yes, that certainly helps. But, first of all consider that there are also people who have a more theoretical approach to things (I'm not only speaking of theoretical physicists, but for instance all those who do math, or computer simulations, etc.). Should we send them too to change spark plugs in an engine? More generally I don't think we are getting at the root of the problem. I believe there should be a system where every student should be let free to chose one's own approach, be it theoretical or practical or whatever. We need a system were people follow their inner call, without being forced from a top down hierarchy which tells what is good or bad for them.
  • Sep 5 2013: There always is something like this haqppenning, but a university is always a special demanding place.
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    Sep 5 2013: There is a huge amount of change underway in American universities, experiments with different styles of pedagpgy, curriculum, and use of space. You are right that people in discussion sites tend to be more acquainted with and concerned about k12.

    But I find the changes underway at universities quite exciting.

    One resource, if you are interested in getting involved or informed in this area, might be the Chronicle of Higher Education. Another resource would be the magazines published by major universities that highlight their research, teaching and curriculum experiments, and outreach. Harvard Magazine might be an example.