Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Latest in Education - My Opinion

I recently attended the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education in Greeley, Colorado. What an amazing group of chemistry faculty I met there! I was presenting but I always feel that my peers are doing such great work.

I attended some organic chemistry teaching presentations and some liberal learning teaching. Both had their own flavors.

Organic (and general chemistry presentations) was filled with flipping teaching technique and results. It made me realize that the current student population has changed so much that we have to completely change our method of teaching. My generation of faculty has been taught via the traditional method.  We learned new concepts in class and we went home and studied and practiced problems. It worked! Now....there seems to be other priorities for students. They cannot seem to study at home. So we, the faculty, adapt. Why? To see that education survives? Or to see that our profession survives? Why are the students no longer interested in their own learning? What is it about the culture here that is telling them that you can succeed in a class without studying? And that too in a class like chemistry!

Faculty need to show success rates in our classes.  College funding depends on graduation rates. And now also job placement. So instead of making sure that the input (students) are prepared to go to college, the pressure is more on faculty to make sure that the students pass.  Will they get a job? Who knows? Currently I work at a 2 year college so at least that is not a problem for us for in chemistry.  It is the statistic of the four year college they transfer to.

The system is becoming so convoluted. No one is the winner except the college administrators. They don't have to provide quality starting material for a good quality product. They can easily shift accountability to the faculty to make anyone into an employable "success" person.  One biggest gap that is missed is that "teaching" is not a one way process - there is also that "learning" coming from the other side.

On the flip side there are also faculty who get so entrenched in their own style of teaching that they are not willing to upgrade their teaching material or style. The world is changing, we have to change also while maintaining professionalism, quality and integrity in our teaching. There is no measure for all these qualities. And these qualities are not even respected much. Students look for what grade they are getting and administrators look for success rate numbers. Everything in the middle is "magic".

In closing I will say that I am grateful that I have some percent of dedicated students in my classes. They motivate me to be better at my job. Education is important in creating the next generation of thinkers, doers and creators. It should not be taken lightly by any party.

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