Pursuit of Excellence
Reflections on planning and assessment.
Tuesday, 23 January 2007
A frequent theme in recent literature on education and the workplace is the importance of
skills in critical thinking, writing, oral communication, teamwork, and technology. In other words,
general education. See, for example, the recent report,
"Are They Really Ready to Work?" from the Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families,
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and The Society for Human Resource Management.
E. D. Hirsch, Jr. has recently addressed the issue of gen ed from a different perspective,
arguing in his recent book, The Knowledge Deficit, that education is requires not only
skills, like critical thinking, but broad knowledge as well. One has to think about something.
Hirsch has ardent fans as well as many detractors. Still, this work offers material to support those
"content" courses in the gen ed curriculum. For a quick overview of the book, see this
Thursday, 11 January 2007
"You don't have to be bad to get better." (Gloria Rogers,
Associate Executive Director of Professional Services for ABET, Inc., an organization that
accredits programs in applied science, computing, engineering and technology education).
Faculty play a key role in students' evaluation of their learning.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports
(subscribers only) that "According to the 2006 Law School Survey of Student Engagement, faculty-student interaction has a greater impact on students' perceptions of their own success at law school than does the amount of time they spend studying or participating in cocurricular activities like moot courts and internships. The survey found that students who felt their professors to be available, helpful, and sympathetic were generally more positive about their experiences at law school than their classmates who did not see their professors in that way."
"The survey also showed that when students receive prompt feedback from professors, they spend more time preparing for class and are more likely to say they would choose the same law school again."
The report also indicates that field experience also plays an important role in students' learning: "students who participate in clinical experiences or pro bono work report greater improvement in their speaking and writing proficiency and in their ability to solve complex problems."
A full report is available on the LSSSE web site.
For a thought-provoking look at liberal or general education, see
Peter Berkowitz's recent
essay, "Liberal Education, Then and Now: J. S. Mill's idea of a university and our own."
Berkwitz's writing has an edge and many will disagree with many of observations, but the questions
he raises are questions universities must answer.