The Breakdown of Higher Education

26th June 2020

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

The Breakdown of Higher Education: How It Happened, the Damage It Does, and What Can Be Done, by John M. Ellis. This provocative book provides a sobering analysis of what is unfolding on college campuses today—a phenomenon similar to that which Barb experienced in her past work with the Soviet communists. (All of which ultimately led to Chernobyl and the many more modern-day  environmental horrors under communist regimes, because censorship under communism reigns supreme.)  Key graf: “Censorship on college campuses concerning questions where the opinions of thoughtful people differ is contrary to what we have always thought about higher education. Until recently, universities dealt in precise argument using evidence that is systematically gathered and carefully analyzed—not in ruthlessly enforced uniformity of opinion based on arbitrary political dogma. That is exactly the kind of anti-intellectual behavior that we expect universities to remedy—it’s what we have them for. If those institutions now routinely resort to this irrational thuggery, what is the point of them? We already see enough of that in the wider world. Academics who behave in this way are really telling us not only that they don’t do university-level thinking, researching, or analyzing of issues, but that they won’t allow anyone else on campus to do it either.”  The Breakdown of Higher Education explores, in great detail, the consequences in higher education of Pathological Altruism

Benny Lewis on Ignoring Destiny and Embracing “Failure”

Our very ownBenny the Irish Polyglot” gives a fascinating podcast here where he talks about his philosophy of not letting the universe hint at what he should or shouldn’t be doing. This led him from failure to success in language learning. Well worth a listen!

Comparing and Combining Retrieval Practice and Concept Mapping

Many times, Barb asks audiences which is the best approach to learning:

  • Re-reading
  • Underling and highlighting
  • Retrieval practice (recall)
  • Concept mapping

Frequently, ⅔ of the audience or more pick “concept mapping.” After all, that’s the term they’re often familiar with and have been told by instructors is the most powerful approach.  But the real answer, as psychologist Jeff Karpicke’s extraordinary research over the years has revealed, is retrieval practice.  The question arises, however, that perhaps combining retrieval practice with concept mapping might somehow be a more powerful approach than retrieval practice alone.  In this wonderful paper, Karpicke compares and combines the two approaches. This conclusion? “Surprisingly, combining concept mapping and retrieval practice failed to produce any benefit over retrieval practice without concept mapping, even though students in the combined condition spent substantially more time engaged with the materials than did students in single-activity conditions.” [Hat tip: Brandon]

What We’re Learning About Online Learning

This New York Times article by Ben Carey (author of How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens), gives a good general overview of what’s currently happening in the online K12 word.  Carey notes: “Physical presence matters, in ways that are not captured by the scientific method… “[O]ne student, Ethan Avery, said in a phone interview. ‘… I’m personally a terrible procrastinator, and not having that physical reminder, sitting in class and the teachers grilling me, ‘Ethan, this is due Friday,’ I fell behind. That was the rough part.’

“The two most authoritative reviews of the research to date, examining the results of nearly 300 studies, come to a similar conclusion. Students tend to learn less efficiently than usual in online courses, as a rule, and depending on the course. But if they have a facilitator or mentor on hand, someone to help with the technology and focus their attention — an approach sometimes called blended learning — they perform about as well in many virtual classes, and sometimes better.”

“One state that has applied this approach broadly, for nearly two decades, is Michigan. A state-supported nonprofit institute called Michigan Virtual offers scores of online courses, in languages, the sciences, history and professional development. It also offers 23 virtual advanced placement (A.P.) courses, for college credit.”

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

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