Recently, I started one of my classes with a simple question, “Should general education courses be required”. It was a strategy to get my students actively engaged in a discussion about the value and merit of general education courses. It was my alternative to the traditional introduction to the course which in many general education courses goes something like: 1. Welcome to XXXX 2. The purpose of the course is XXXX 3. It is important because XXXX.
The discussion was a success! Students were actively engaged in the discussion about the merits of general education and were able to argue, at a very shallow level, about why general education was/was beneficial. But, I was horrified at one of the very serious justifications from one student. “No, general education should not be required because everything I need to know I can learn from my cell phone.”
Right then and there I started working to revise many of the assignments in my class. It wasn’t about revising the course’s content. It was about revising the course to get my students to actively engage and think about the content. I was further inspired by the fact that I was in a learning community that was discussing Brookfield, S. (2012). Teaching for critical thinking. San Francisco, CA ISBN-13: 978-0470889343/ISBN-10: 0470889349.
Brookfield spends some time talking about assumptions. So, let me challenge three assumptions I see in the idea that content isn’t addressed in the RSD framework:
- There is an implied assumption that the RSD framework is responsible for content acquisition. I suggest that it is the instructor’s responsibility to provide a minimal amount of content upon which students can then expand upon and integrate. Can learners do research without any content knowledge?
- Is the RSD really about content acquisition? In the U.S. there is a big push for “21st century skills”. This includes problem solving, team work, analysis, and so forth. Is the RSD designed for content acquisition or for addressing “21st Century Skills”.
- Are we reaching a point in education where we are using tried and true techniques of pedagogical approaches that no longer apply to learning? The traditional education paradigm is that professors and teachers are “gatekeepers” with access to knowledge that they can disseminate as their expertise warrants. However, today’s learners are on the Internet learning from videos, articles, wikis, blogs, one another, by-passing us as experts. Do pedagogical principles still apply to today’s learners or should we start to look at including some andragogical (adult learning) principles to today’s learners?
I look forward to hearing your responses relative to the Research Skill Development framework.