My distain for school has only grown the longer I’ve been in college. I’ve come to many crossroads in my academic career where I couldn’t help but feel limited by certain educational practices and norms. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like this. There’s a reason why so many college graduates go into the “real world” unprepared. The main reason is due to the fact that our current system fosters the learning of theory rather than learning the practical application of the material student’s are studying.
I am passionate about many issues, but education is something I will always be passionate about. The way we treat education is fundamentally flawed. Though I could probably easily write a 50 paged paper on the fundamental flaws and the atrocities committed against our students, I will spare you. Instead, I want to address the issue of how we test and apply what we are learning in class.
Education here in America is treated as a one size fits all system. The first grave mistake. The second mistake is that much of what is being taught is only being taught in theory, and not in practice. As a communications major, I have had very few classes where I was taught via applying the class material to real life situations. More often than not, I’ve sat in class, taken notes, maybe had a 10 minute class discussion, and then I’ve been tested on the material. Unfortunately, many people, including some of my peers, see nothing wrong with what I have just said. Which is a tragedy.
I have had very few classes in my entire college career where the professor matched what we were learning in that class, to the practical application and testing of the material. Two of the most memorable classes that implemented this approach include my public speaking class, and my vulnerability and rhetorical criticism class. The one thing that these classes have in common is that the professors of each class tested students through the application of what we had learned. In my public speaking class, we only received grades from the speeches we gave. In my vulnerability and rhetorical criticism class, we used our knowledge and skills of rhetorical criticism to write a well crafted paper criticizing any artifact relevant to the main theme we discussed in class. In addition to this, we were required to partake in a small group class debate and employ the rhetorical tools we learned.
As a communications major, it’s very disheartening to see that for a major which requires a lot of interpersonal communication between people, we do very little of such. Instead, more often than not, we listen to our professor lecture and then mindlessly take notes. Often, there is no room for open discussion or implementing what we have learned and putting it into practice. And even in the classes that do involve more class discussion and projects, we are still tested in the good old paper and pencil fashion. I don’t understand how a professor can accurately assess a student’s capabilities through this method instead of seeing how well a student can implement the learned material in a real life situation. It’s one thing to be able to regurgitate theories and definitions, it’s a whole different thing to be able to actually apply these theories and definitions to the real world in which we live. The purpose of testing a student is to see how much of the taught material he or she understands and has retained. However, by giving every student a pencil and paper exam, you are only truly testing the understanding of the class material of those who are good test takers. And I’m willing to bet that once a student enters their professional career, they will never be tested via paper and pencil, but rather based on how well they can execute their assigned task.
Teachers and professors should not feel limited to just using one method to test their student’s grasp on the material. Personally, I know that I’m a terrible test taker, and that this testing method does not come close to assessing the knowledge I gained from the class. Typically, when I take a test, stress and pressure to get an A set in, then comes the over thinking and the over analyzing of the question, then comes the second guessing and arguing in my head as to why there could be two possible answers instead of just one. I consider myself to be both intelligent and ambitious, but if you judge me strictly based off of my exam scores, you might not see that. And without a doubt, I know many other students face the same problem.
I understand teachers and professors aren’t always to blame, and that sometimes it’s the department that sets stringent rules to follow. However, I do believe that teachers and professors need to be advocates for their students and take the initiative to transform the way in which students are taught and tested. A good teacher or professor can have a huge impact on a student’s life and the way in which they view their academic career. And the same is true for a bad professor or teacher. Which is why I cannot stress enough that teachers and professors must try to break from traditional teaching and testing methods. I also understand that many teachers and professors may argue that traditional means of teaching and testing are the easiest and most time efficient methods. My rebuttal to that is this: I highly doubt than anyone goes into the teaching profession because they want an easy life. I think I can say with a high amount of confidence that many go into the teaching profession because they have a genuine passion for teaching and shaping the the future doctors, lawyers, engineers, academics, business men and women, and politicians which walk through their classroom doors.
Together, teachers, professors, and students have the power to change the academic climate. Like with everything worthwhile, this will require effort and dedication from both parties, but this does not mean that it cannot be achieved or that it is not worth the additional effort. In this joint effort, it will be imperative for teachers and professors to listen carefully and act upon the needs of their students. And it will be equally as imperative for students to take a more hands on approach when it comes to their own education.
So on behalf of many students like myself who feel as though they are being robbed of a satisfying, wholesome education which will prepare them for their future, let’s work together to change things. Lets work together to give our country's future, a better future.