A Quiet Revolution in Education
The days are disappearing when we, as professors at universities, provide lots of new information in lectures to be dutifully recorded by students and later regurgitated at exams testing the ability of students to memorize the facts they were given earlier.
Modern institutions of higher learning practice more and more what is generally referred to as student-centered teaching and learning. The essence of this method is that one no longer attempts to simply disburse information like a fount of wisdom. Instead, academics deploy teaching strategies that facilitate student learning in such a way that all students in a class reach the required pre-determined standards for passing a course. In other words, an academic thinks about the needs of individual students in their class and how they can assist (like a coach) to ensure they understand what is required to be learned.
Their concern is to ensure that all students can reach the level of understanding that was expressed earlier as what they should know or able to do (learning outcomes) at the end of the course. This is the second important part of the quiet revolution that is taking place. More and more programs or parts of programs (courses) are being defined by learning outcomes. These learning outcomes are useful in that they give students a way of looking at the course in terms of what is expected of them, or, even better, what they’ll know and can do after the course has ended. To design an assessment that tests whether indeed the students are at the intended level is also greatly facilitated by these learning outcomes.
The third aspect of the quiet revolution is that increasingly program designers are heeding the call of employers for graduates to be equipped with so-called transversal skills. These transversal skills include abilities such as critical thinking, communication, teamwork, analytical capacity and problem solving. In very advanced implementations of these three aspects, the body of knowledge is not forgotten, but has now become the vehicle by which we ensure that students acquire these transversal skills.
The expected outcome of these three changes are graduates well equipped to make a contribution to solving global challenges, able to make worthwhile contributions to the organizations that employ them and able to act as responsible global citizens with a longterm sustainable view of man’s impact on the world.