Monday, January 5, 2009

The Big Questions in Higher Education

Peter Ingle posted another great comment, this one on the "common and custom" post from a couple of weeks ago. Here it is:

Gary, I think what we know about learning is up in the air. We have data that says we need to meet individual needs. We have data that says social learning is best. We have data that says students prefer to progress at their own rate. So what we "know" about learning can fit these 2 platforms, and others. My 2 cents...

Peter is right of course. Too often I and others in higher ed talk like we know how to bring about learning. The challenge is implementation, but the end is clear, well-defined, and easily explained, we imply. (Of course this is a bugaboo for K-12 folks also, where set curricula and standardized exams subsume the question of what learning is into a debate about which test is best.) But Peter instead asks us to consider what learning actually is.

He has made me wonder what the other big questions are in higher ed--the ones that we ought always to think about because they are too important to assume that we already know the answer. So, here are a few "big questions", at least in my mind:
  • What is learning?
  • What does attending school add to learning? What does it take away from learning?
  • How does an educator think about the needs/desires/interests of individuals versus the needs/desires/interests of groups, especially those groups larger than the class?

What are the other big questions?

1 comment:

Peter said...

A couple that always way on my mind draw me back to ED foundations. Here are a couple I think about on a regular basis:
- why do we think the majority of learning must occur in "school"?
- how does learning really impact our society? is it positive?
-why has our view of learning remained so stagnant in comparison to so many other aspects of our society which have changed dramatically in the past 100 years?