By Sean Scarpiello
The other day, I came across an article in the magazine “Fortune” on a new book which is challenging the ideas of traditional education. Harvard professor, David A. Kaplan’s book, Trusting What Your Told, looks at the way students are being taught and rethinks the ways to improve teaching. One of his overall ideas is to incorporate more hands on learning in the classroom and less structured instruction. He argues that students should be given the opportunity to ask questions and have them answered. How exactly will these ideas translate into the classroom?
Removing a lot of the structured curriculum mandated by the government in schools may sound like a terrible idea at first, but when we take into account what teachers could replace this time with, less structured time may be much better. If each class in school has a time devoted to simply asking questions, students may learn more. In addition, students’ interests may become peaked and they may find a passion for subjects in which they previously struggled. This, in fact, can end up boosting a student’s grade in the class. If teachers take 15 to 20 minutes at the end of each class to answer questions regarding all different areas of a subject, students may learn even more. If students do not have any questions, teachers can even come up with presentations that are thought provoking for students. Teachers also have the ability to look up the answers to many questions online and go over answers in class right as the questions are asked.
I myself would have like the chance to be a part of such a program in school. For example, I had always found physics boring and tedious. However, if I had the opportunity to learn about the ground-breaking advances being made in advanced physics, I may have pursued the area. In classes like entry level physics, students are exposed only to the long formulas and intense amounts of math. If students were exposed to the topics advanced physicists are studying, such as string theory or faster-than-light speed, there would definitely be a growing interest among students.
One other idea I enjoy about Kaplan’s idea is that hands on teaching allows for much more learning. Currently, there is not much hands-on learning going on in schools. In my experience, I did not come into contact with hands on learning until my second year in college in Genetics class. On the very first day of this class, the professor handed out a worksheet with a pyramid of the different types of learning. At the bottom of the pyramid was memorization learning. At the top of the pyramid, there was analyzing, evaluating, and problem-solving based learning. This was the first class in my educational career where we were challenged to ask questions and evaluate our own questions. Also, all of us learned much more in this hands-on class than in other classes. This is because we were not being asked to simply memorize the material, but also put our knowledge to the test and work out problems. In addition, if students were exposed to more hands on learning in earlier on in their education career, students would also develop critical thinking skills at a younger age. This would cause more students to not only be interested in certain subjects, but also be able to analyze and solve problems in these subjects at the same time.
In all, if education professions could implement some of Kaplan’s ideas into their curriculum, students would become much more adept in problem solving and critical thinking. Also, teachers would be able to motivate students to work hard in class by stimulating interest and introducing the interesting aspects of each subject being taught. Ultimately, this can lead to generations of students who are not only interested in the subject matter of courses, but also learning.