And I so badly want to tear it down and start again from scratch.
One of the traditional marks of an education is having facts internalized, at your fingertips. But this article hits on some of my frustrations:
Too many college students are introduced to science through survey courses that consist of facts “often taught as a laundry list and from a historical perspective without much effort to explain their relevance to modern problems.” Only science students with “the persistence of Sisyphus and the patience of Job” will reach the point where they can engage in the kind of science that excited them in the first place, she said.
And I’m as guilty of that as the next guy. I tell students, “This is how it is.” It’s a simple, straightforward thing to do: be a tour guide of information. “And over on your left, you’ll see the valence electrons...” And I’m grateful to this post on Usable Learning that has computers in the title, but is really about pushing the notion that there must always be right answer.
That’s another, increasingly important mark of an educated person: being able to cope with situations where there is no right answer.
I think one way to get comfortable with uncertainty is to really get at the way evidence is gathered and analyzed. By looking at process. I want to figure out how to show students evidence. I want to be able to say, “Okay, here’s how we know that there are these steps in glycoloysis,” or, “This is how we know there are three binding sites in ribosomes.”
Many textbooks say they showing process, but it’s usually splashed in here and there, in teensy pieces. And I can see why. If I were to try to figure out those original experiments that worked out the pathways in photosynthesis, I probably couldn’t do it. And I’m not sure if it’s worth it in a lot of cases.
On the one hand, I do want students to have a certain amount of material internalized, because I think you need that intellectual infrastructure. But I think they’re not getting anywhere near enough practice with dealing with analysis to prepare them for tackling new problems. I’m completely conflicted.