course reflections

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Finals Week Question #1

December 6, 2005 by Administrator · 9 Comments · Uncategorized




Okay, well I don’t necessarily believe that these so called “traps of education” should be avoided. However, I do believe that they can be implemented differently in ways that are more effective for all learners. The intent behind grades is that students get feedback as to how they are performing on their work. The intent behind syllabi is that students are aware of the goals, objectives, and intended activities and schedule of the course. The intent to having a rubric is so that students are aware of the expectations of the instructor. With these artifacts the learning environment has structure. However, with structure comes limitations and limitations can limit what a learner is able to produce and learn. If the instructor of a course intends to have learners produce a particular end product or participate in an activity in a particular way and their grades depends on them reaching a particular end point set out by the instructor than the requirement of including these limitations in the learning environment is essential in order to guide the students to where you want them to be. On the other hand, if the intent of the instructor is to allow students to go in their own direction, produce what they want to as an end product then the use of grades, syllabi, and/or rubrics is going to limit where students might end up or what they might produce. However, I do believe that it is human nature to want (maybe even need) some kind of structured environment in order to learn and produce or maybe we have been conditioned to believe that we need this structure. So how do we achieve balance between having structure and allowing learners to guide the process? Perhaps, the ratio between structure and flexibility should depend on the content of the course. I can’t imagine taking a statistics course without structure however, in an art class structure needs to be limited. I don’t necessarily agree that the mechanisms that we use in education to achieve structure are confused with education but they have been focused on entirely too much. If there were no grades attached to courses students would learn whatever they were motivated to learn not what the instructor intended on them learning. As an instructor, not having the structured environment may become frustrating if students are not producing what you want them to, or participating in the activities you set up in the way you think that they should, or producing end produces that you would like them to produce. I believe that the role of the instructor becomes a leader instead of a manager. Hopefully the students in the course already have a strong interest in learning the content of the course. The problems arise when students are force to take courses that are not of interests to them. What happens when this is the case? How do you motivate a student to want to learn? Grades have been motivation for many students who are forced to take courses that they don’t necessarily want to take. So, I guess the ultimate question is where or how do we find this balance between having structure in our courses but not limiting the productivity of the learners?

9 Comments so far ↓

  • Nate

    the phrase was “trappings of education” not “traps …” :)

    “Trappings: Few carousel animals are plain. The carvers adorned them with fancy saddles, jewels, tassels, and any number of other special carved additions called trappings. The trappings would set the theme for any particular animal and were most elaborate on the outside row of animals and the side of the animals facing outward.” [from

    All the things you’ve listed here may well be tools but are also widely pursued for their own ends. Consider Education in the purest form … A student finds a teacher who can impart some body of knowledge — some cognos — and the learning is sufficient to the purpose. Grades, syllabi, rubrics, and all the other trappings are merely setting the theme for the dancing bears who were once students. They are geared toward managing the process of teaching – not for facilitating education. Students, over time, have used them as crutches for figuring out what the minimum required effort is to achieve a particular grade – not for facilitating the process of learning.

  • Eileen Gatliffe

    Students are introduced to trappings very early in their educational careers. Kindergarten students need to know so many letters and sounds by winter break and so on…The way schools are set up encourages students who only want to do the amount they will get ‘credit for’. I always hope I’m encourage to look past the curriculum and enjoy learning for its own sake as that is what will sustain them in old age.

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