Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A new April holday--Public Learning Day

If your campus is anything like mine, more and more events are getting loaded into the month of April. Our undergraduate research fair is then. Student capstone projects get completed that month. Awards are given out. Students take the NSSE, CLA, and other assessment surveys. Students take end of the year exams. (The list goes on.)

Nearly all of these things happen in isolation--in a single class, say, or for a single constituency. Doing so blunts their impact. Why not have a Public Learning Day, where the entire campus--all faculty, staff, and students take the day to show their learning publicly? Undergraduate research would get recognized alongside capstones. All of the assessments would take place the same day. Faculty and staff would show their work--research, model teaching, etc. The public--parents, funders, community members, would all be invited.

What would happen? Maybe nothing. But maybe we would be drawn into contact with each other. And perhaps we would begin to have conversations about what we take as evidence of learning and what our culture is. Plus, we could have really great refreshments...

1 comment:

lionofzion said...

To a student, this also has the potential to sound like a really cruel joke (Let's invent a new holiday that's celebrated by taking tests!)

That's not what it's meant to be, but in a society that's not used to holidays as a form of leisure, it would be a hard pill to swallow.

But the idea of holidays as leisure may well be wrong to begin with. This is clear to anyone with a working knowledge of Yom Kippur and the rest of the Jewish High Holy Days. And leisure certainly wasn't the point of medieval Easter festivities either. Nor, I would suggest, should our modern American holidays-- MLK Jr. Day or Presidents' Day or Veterans'Day-- be holidays of leisure.

But how do we build a culture of holidays that leans toward commemoration and contemplation rather than just taking the day off?