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Luminal

Is the Academic System Deeply Flawed?

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I would say yes, it is.

 

Each human being learns in a slightly different way (some more than slightly), yet each and every last one of them are channeled through the same academic system.

 

For me, the proof is in the way I learn, which is not exactly the norm. Perhaps I am ADD, or perhaps I am simply an introvert, but I do not learn well in typical classroom settings with homework and papers and the like.

 

Yet I have been forced to go through this system for nearly two decades (from the moment I first entered a classroom when I was four).

 

I learn by reading, then by letting it settle in my brain for a while, then reading some more, and perhaps drawing visual diagrams and the like. In any university class I've attended in the last several years, this method has been quite successful (usually in the top 2-3 in any class). Yet I've wasted literally thousands of hours in classrooms learning nothing at all, and even more on homework and papers, in which I absorb even less.

 

The point being, everyone learns in a different way.

 

In classrooms, I tune out the teacher immediately because I cannot take in the teacher's spoken words and train of thought fast enough. So, I just read the subject's textbook in class, draw diagrams to help me, and tune out the teacher. Within a few days into each semester, I'm usually many chapters ahead of the current lecture.

 

Why can the system not be more adaptive?

 

The current system actually takes time away from valuable hours every week I could spend learning new material in other subjects, yet I'm slavishly doing papers on topics I'm already quite proficient at so that some man or woman who went through the same flawed system can claim that I know or do not know some subject based on whether I learn in the way everyone else does.

 

In short, human beings are a very diverse group; do not treat them as if they have identical neuroplastisity.

 

If anyone else learns in a different way, please share as well. I would be most interested in hearing. :)

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The trouble is that there's no easy way to make an adaptive system. How can you teach to suit every single person's unique needs?

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The trouble is that there's no easy way to make an adaptive system. How can you teach to suit every single person's unique needs?

 

Well, of course nothing is going to change, regardless of what ideas are put out, even if there were 10 million like-minded individuals. The academic system is thousands of years old, and it's not going to change in our lifetimes (unless we build chips that download information into cortex ;) ).

 

With that said, I've played with the idea of having Test A for those who show up to class every day and do papers, and Test B for those who do not show up. Test A is multiple choice and the such; Test B has additional and more challenging problems, with fill-in the blank, essay questions, and the like.

 

Another idea, this time for applied learners, "Application Tests" in which people are required to actually do whatever it is in their subject that is theorized about instead of yap on about it. Some people are great at application, terrible at wording a theory. For example, ask someone to build an advanced robot in a Robotics class for credit in the course, rather than delving into technical talk on a written test.

 

Yet as I said, nothing is ever going to change, and teachers would not want to put in the extra effort to grade multiple tests. This is more or less me complaining about taking a CompSci I course about the basics of object-oriented programming when I've known C/C++ and Java since I was 13-14. ;)

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I would say yes, it is.

 

Each human being learns in a slightly different way (some more than slightly), yet each and every last one of them are channeled through the same academic system.

 

For me, the proof is in the way I learn, which is not exactly the norm. Perhaps I am ADD, or perhaps I am simply an introvert, but I do not learn well in typical classroom settings with homework and papers and the like.

 

Yet I have been forced to go through this system for nearly two decades (from the moment I first entered a classroom when I was four).

 

I learn by reading, then by letting it settle in my brain for a while, then reading some more, and perhaps drawing visual diagrams and the like. In any university class I've attended in the last several years, this method has been quite successful (usually in the top 2-3 in any class). Yet I've wasted literally thousands of hours in classrooms learning nothing at all, and even more on homework and papers, in which I absorb even less.

 

The point being, everyone learns in a different way.

 

In classrooms, I tune out the teacher immediately because I cannot take in the teacher's spoken words and train of thought fast enough. So, I just read the subject's textbook in class, draw diagrams to help me, and tune out the teacher. Within a few days into each semester, I'm usually many chapters ahead of the current lecture.

 

Why can the system not be more adaptive?

 

The current system actually takes time away from valuable hours every week I could spend learning new material in other subjects, yet I'm slavishly doing papers on topics I'm already quite proficient at so that some man or woman who went through the same flawed system can claim that I know or do not know some subject based on whether I learn in the way everyone else does.

 

In short, human beings are a very diverse group; do not treat them as if they have identical neuroplastisity.

 

If anyone else learns in a different way, please share as well. I would be most interested in hearing. :)

 

Don't expect everyone to bend to your particular needs/wants/desires. No matter how smart you think you are, you must learn the discipline of learning. It is as, or more important than anything else. Without it, genius or not and ADD or not, you'll just end up jumping around from one whim to the next......and eventually turn out to be another Mensa member pondering the origins of the universe while collecting quarters at the toll booth .

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Your problem is that employers are not interested in how smart you are. They are interested in how well you can do the job they want you to do. And that job is most likely geared towards 'normally' functioning people.

 

So if you do badly in the usual academic environment, most employers will not want to take a chance on you, and in my opinion that is a rather sensible stance to take.

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What an interesting post. I felt this exact same way in school. I learned more by reading than by lecture, but I did learn some from lectures. Typically, knowledgable teachers seemed to lecture better, but most of my learning came from reading and asking the specific questions I was hung-up about.

 

And I can soooo relate with the "wasted time" frustration. Almost every single one of my instructors annoyed me to no end with this ridiculous "class participation" crap. I never learned a damn thing that way. All it did was heighten the anxiety of those of us scared to death of group attention and focus and steer us completely away from learning the subject material - which I then had to back and learn on my own in the book. And I paid for this?

 

Some peope need group interaction to learn and really enjoy it. I don't. Many others very noticeably didn't either. It did us a diservice and wasted our time - precious time. After working a full-time job and driving straight to school covered in sawdust, I wanted to LEARN THE MATERIAL. I've got a family waiting for me at home that I don't get to see but an hour a night if I'm lucky and these ridiculous instructors want to play "group games", which turns out to be an incredibly inefficient method of covering material. Like the OP said, when I tuned out, I progressed. Otherwise, I suffered.

 

I noticed one thing in particular that could at least be applied today, and I'm surprised, no amazed, that partitioning by learning style hasn't been implemented at some level. But I noticed some people learn more qualitatively, while others were more quantitative. So we would have a teacher that I was completely in tune with, yet half the class is frustrated with him. Next class, I'm struggling to understand something, while the book's "style" is more in line with me and I find it remarkably easy to follow.

 

So, I've always been curious why we don't test for learning style, and at least design course structures that compliment these styles - which could also maximize the total amount of information learned as well.

 

Your problem is that employers are not interested in how smart you are. They are interested in how well you can do the job they want you to do. And that job is most likely geared towards 'normally' functioning people.

 

So if you do badly in the usual academic environment' date=' most employers will not want to take a chance on you, and in my opinion that is a rather sensible stance to take.[/quote']

 

It's a good point. But there are advantages to certain styles of folk. Maybe today, everyone needs to fit mold type A personality to be effective in the work place. But, perhaps if we were already partitioning and recognizing the different types of intelligence (logical analyticals, memory specialists, "team" people, "individual" people) then business might be utilizing the "style" of worker best suited to the job.

 

We already do this to a certain extent - salesmen usually being good talkers, analyticals naturally seem to gravitate towards tech work...etc. But the next step could be dividing the kinds of analyticals, like say team spirited from self motivated. In my job, team work isn't that effective. Each person has assigned areas of responsbility, and most work is done solo without much interaction with others. What good does a team spirited worker do here? So, my employer could not only look for folks that work well by themselves, but actually excel working solo. Quality and productivity could actually go up by looking for these quirky dudes.

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What an interesting post. I felt this exact same way in school. I learned more by reading than by lecture, but I did learn some from lectures. Typically, knowledgable teachers seemed to lecture better, but most of my learning came from reading and asking the specific questions I was hung-up about.

 

And I can soooo relate with the "wasted time" frustration. Almost every single one of my instructors annoyed me to no end with this ridiculous "class participation" crap. I never learned a damn thing that way. All it did was heighten the anxiety of those of us scared to death of group attention and focus and steer us completely away from learning the subject material - which I then had to back and learn on my own in the book. And I paid for this?

 

Some peope need group interaction to learn and really enjoy it. I don't. Many others very noticeably didn't either. It did us a diservice and wasted our time - precious time. After working a full-time job and driving straight to school covered in sawdust, I wanted to LEARN THE MATERIAL. I've got a family waiting for me at home that I don't get to see but an hour a night if I'm lucky and these ridiculous instructors want to play "group games", which turns out to be an incredibly inefficient method of covering material. Like the OP said, when I tuned out, I progressed. Otherwise, I suffered.

 

I noticed one thing in particular that could at least be applied today, and I'm surprised, no amazed, that partitioning by learning style hasn't been implemented at some level. But I noticed some people learn more qualitatively, while others were more quantitative. So we would have a teacher that I was completely in tune with, yet half the class is frustrated with him. Next class, I'm struggling to understand something, while the book's "style" is more in line with me and I find it remarkably easy to follow.

 

So, I've always been curious why we don't test for learning style, and at least design course structures that compliment these styles - which could also maximize the total amount of information learned as well.

 

 

 

It's a good point. But there are advantages to certain styles of folk. Maybe today, everyone needs to fit mold type A personality to be effective in the work place. But, perhaps if we were already partitioning and recognizing the different types of intelligence (logical analyticals, memory specialists, "team" people, "individual" people) then business might be utilizing the "style" of worker best suited to the job.

 

We already do this to a certain extent - salesmen usually being good talkers, analyticals naturally seem to gravitate towards tech work...etc. But the next step could be dividing the kinds of analyticals, like say team spirited from self motivated. In my job, team work isn't that effective. Each person has assigned areas of responsbility, and most work is done solo without much interaction with others. What good does a team spirited worker do here? So, my employer could not only look for folks that work well by themselves, but actually excel working solo. Quality and productivity could actually go up by looking for these quirky dudes.

 

Precisely.

 

Since I have a nice job about an hour from my school, I have a painful commute each day.

 

When I get to class, the professor jumps into his lecture and I tune him out. I read and digest the book at my pace, wait until the lecture is over, and head home.

 

This process has gone on for years, and between the daily commute and time in class, I spend the majority of my time devoted to simply "being there" so that the professor does not drop me from the class. I would not only learn as proficiently at home as in the university environment, I would assuredly learn better without the distractions (group participation as you mentioned) and the dozens of hours each week that I would have back.

 

Alas, one system for six billion people, and it is never going to change.

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Sure it can change -- you just need the right people. Nobody sleeps through my lectures. And I see some seriously tired students in my night classes.

 

For example, pursuant to our general education expectation on critical thinking, I bring up a controversial subject from information technology/security in almost every class session and force the students to debate BOTH sides of the issue (especially when they strongly believe one way -- I just love to do that). And every class session includes a hands-on lab, 99% of which I create/invent myself.

 

I have to admit, though, that I'm not "normal". Many of my fellow instructors use PowerPoint slides, labs and exams provided by the textbook publishers! I've seen the stuff the publishers crank out, and most of it's CR*P! I'll pull a question or a smidgeon of a lab from them now and then, but most of the time I throw the textbook in the nearest waste basket. (I do assign readings and homework from textbooks, though, and when I can I change the textbooks to come from way outside the normal publishers, like industry-standard reference books and such. There's just not enough time in the classroom to cover everything they need to know, sadly.)

 

But it takes a lot of preparation to create custom labs and exams and lesson plans. I think it pays off huge, both for them and for ME, because it makes the job so much more FUN. I've TRIED teaching it "their" way, and it's so boring I could SHOOT myself. I made TWICE as much money in a BAD year consulting as I'm making now. Why would I do this if I were bored?

 

BTW I'm not kidding about the students being tired. Most of 'em work 40+ hours and still come to class 3 or 4 nights a week. That's gotta be tough, and some of the busiest and tiredest ones are also some of the best students -- because they WANT it so bad. That's a powerful motivator for me to make the class as good as I can possibly make it. When I have a bad session I feel like I've let them down, and when I have a good session I'm on top of the world because I know what it will mean for them down the road.

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BTW I'm not kidding about the students being tired. Most of 'em work 40+ hours and still come to class 3 or 4 nights a week. That's gotta be tough, and some of the busiest and tiredest ones are also some of the best students -- because they WANT it so bad. That's a powerful motivator for me to make the class as good as I can possibly make it. When I have a bad session I feel like I've let them down, and when I have a good session I'm on top of the world because I know what it will mean for them down the road.

 

Right the hell on, Pangloss. There is a genuine passion in your words, and I'm sure your students sense that same energy when in class.

 

Incidentally, I just registered for my first college class in over 7 years this morning. I am going back to get a second degree in Chinese, and my company is paying for it, but I'll be doing it working closer to 60 or 70 hour weeks. Hopefully I'll have some instructors who espouse the same enthusiasm you just did, because I'm going to be doing this on coffee and adrenaline. :D

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That's awesome, good luck with that. I have no talent for human languages whatsoever.

 

You know, you've given me an idea for a thread, lemme go start it right now.

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One of the things you learn early on in adult education (androgogy, as opposed to pedagogy) is that people have learning styles. One might be visual, another might be kinesthetic, but you cannot do much to change that in a fully developed adult. You can either teach/facilitate/demonstrate/assist in an appropriate style or you can literally drive the person to either hate the process or else drop out altogether.

 

Most universities are not capable of responding to the needs of their learners on that level. They have schedules and standards to maintain and it is largely "sink or swim".

 

I took a course in solid state physics in which the professor decided we would cover in 8 weeks a book that often requires 32 weeks, so that we could then try out some of his material. The professor stated that he would move very fast and that, if anyone raised his hand, he would be ignored. If anyone called out a question, that person would be dropped from the class. Only the "cream of the cream" learned anything in that class.

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Luminal: You learn the stuff much faster than your lecture, thus having a lot of spare time to either learn additional stuff or do something completely different. You get top grades. And I don't think you couldn't read that "additional stuff" during the lectures you seemingly have to attend (from your post I assume there is something like an attendance-duty for lectures in your university). What exactly is your problem? That the lecture given for 30-50 people isn't tailored to your personal demands? That there's attendance-duty in your classes?

 

Sidenote: I strongly doubt that in your country six billion people are going to university.

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When I get to class, the professor jumps into his lecture and I tune him out. I read and digest the book at my pace, wait until the lecture is over, and head home.

 

Have you tried reading the chapter prior to lecture so you have it already digested and may gain further insight from the lecture?

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Have you tried reading the chapter prior to lecture so you have it already digested and may gain further insight from the lecture?

 

Excellent point.

Also I would think that there are quite some differences in the schooling systems between different countries, despite efforts to make them more comparable.

 

Also the title of this thread is a bit misleading as the OP is rather a critique on the schooling system rather the academic system as whole (which quite possibly is even more flawed...)

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It is flawed, I loathe the school system, public school systems suck. Private schools are great though, I love them.

 

I skipped 8th grade and went on to 9th. I got a 3.95 as my year average, and exelled my classmates in math and science. 'Nuff said.

 

It can't suit everyone's needs, but the system can try not treat everyone the exact same way. People with ADD, dyslexia and such are often stuck in the same classrooms as everyone else and they don't get the proper education they need. Same goes with students who deserve to be a grade or two higher, they're stuck with inferior minds their own age and learn what they already know. And like other people pointed out in this thread, people learn in different ways.

 

If anything, the public school system would be a lot better if it was handled in a way similar to college. Four years system, a spring and fall semester. K-3, 4-7, 8-12. You can take a test to skip ahead a few classes and maybe even a grade. I'd be great.

 

I so cannot wait to go to a University.

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If anything, the public school system would be a lot better if it was handled in a way similar to college. Four years system, a spring and fall semester. K-3, 4-7, 8-12. You can take a test to skip ahead a few classes and maybe even a grade. I'd be great.

 

I like it. Even if it was based on total credit hours, with various levels of class - higher levels worth more credit so you're rewarded by succeeding in the tougher classes; motivation. Maybe kids would want to study harder so they could get out of school sooner.

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