“Do we have to, like, learn this?”

That was a question I received from a first year student during the week.  It didn’t inspire me with confidence and made me wonder about the concept of learning this 18-year old has built up in his 18 years.

A conversation ensued emphasising the need to understand the meaning of the material, questioning it in a constructive way, forming opinions and acquiring evidence to prove or disprove these opinions.  The student’s response: “so, we don’t have to, like, learn it then?”.  I left the conversation more perplexed then the student.  What is learning?  Students have enough new concepts, ideas, policies and procedures to grapple with as they begin third level education.  Having to revise what they understand by the very term learning shouldn’t have to be added to the list.

A movement from rote learning to concept understanding is not easy. What other changes might new students expect?

US News have 5 suggestions and “parents tips on how they can set their child on the path to success at college”.  Oh dear.  Starting college is a big step into adulthood.  It’s the perfect time for parents to let go the apron strings and see their offspring as adults. Continuing to treat them as children at this crucial stage in their young lives is not helpful at all.

Reference to “kid” throughout the article is a shame because the advice is actually quite good:

  1. 1. Cutting classes: don’t do it. Good advice.  It’s rare for students to do well if they don’t attend classes.
  2. Do what’s prescribed and no more: Good advice. Taking 6 subjects when 5 is the recommended number is stretching resources (particularly time) too far.  The study / life balance takes a hit. The very important personal development from the college experience will not be optimised.
  3. Take social media in moderation: Good advice.  If a half-hour Facebook hit before heading to college settles the mind for the day, then it’s a good idea.  If that half-hour turns into 5 hours…..
  4. Why put off till tomorrow what can be done today: Good advice. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. You never know how long a task will take.
  5. If you need help ask for it: there is nothing more frustrating for a lecturer than to hear “I didn’t understand the assignment”…. after the event when the grade has been given.

To use Project Management speak, ‘creep’ happens slowly.  Slipping behind gradually is something to watch out for because it’s not always easy to spot. A missed class today can easily become a missed assignment deadline a short few weeks later, leading to a failed subject.  Quite often, the slippage start/ acceleration can be offset by a quick email or a short meeting with the lecturer.

Simply put: talk to us. We actually do want to help.  We might not always be able to help but if we don’t know help is needed then the chances are you won’t receive any.


Posted on October 3, 2010, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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