Monday, June 15, 2009

Lessons not on the curriculum

There's the course description given in the syllabus, the outline of what the professor hopes to cover during the course.  And then there are the extra things the students learn that aren't part of the official class, that aren't mentioned in the text book.

As a never-before-in-the-classroom student, our daughter had a few extra lessons like that to learn.  One of the first was that many students were much less prepared than she was, and that the simple matter of reading ability made up so much of the difference.  Even through her last year in university, she could see that her classmates struggled just because they couldn't get through the required reading in a timely way, and they didn't retain as much from their reading.  Because she had never had fellow students to compare herself to, she hadn't known just how smart and capable she was.

Another college first for her was the practice of group assignments.  I was surprised by just how many classes used group assignments at a university level and by the fact that they work as well there as they do in junior high:  the motivated students do the lion's share of the work, while hoping that their fellow group members won't mess things up too badly and everyone gets the grade that the motivated people earned.  Perhaps this is good training for some office jobs, but it certainly is an unnecessary and misplaced tool in a college class.

Of course the biggest difference from home education to university was the fact that the teacher is no longer named Mom.  Kaylin had been blessed throughout her university education with professors and instructors who are motivated and well-informed, interested in the needs and progress of the students in their classes, and especially so when they can see that there are students who are highly motivated and desiring to learn.  She benefitted greatly from the teaching and mentorship of these teachers, and often learned much more than the curriculum had promised because of their interest and help.  Of course, she had her share of average teachers too, but the shining light of the excellent ones was one of the greatest gifts of the university experience.

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