Two different problems in education

I liked the distinction drawn by a commenter.

distinguish two situations. One, the student wants to learn about something, because she finds it interesting or wants to use it for something. She wants to learn and wants the knowledge to stay with her.

In the other situation, the student is not inherently interested and/or does not expect to use the information. The student may well want to learn enough for long enough to pass but doesn’t mind if all that knowledge just decays away once the course (or the test!) is over.

Right. The first situation calls for providing content and feedback. The second situation calls for providing reward and punishment (assuming that we know what is best for the student). Note that the reward can be psychic reward, such as the student feeling closer affinity with a teacher that the student respects.

This entry was posted in Economics of Education. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Two different problems in education

  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    One of the strategies that teachers use is to try to convince students, “I’m on your side. I really want you to pass.” When students believe it, classroom management (discipline and disruption) is easier.

    But that’s not enough. Teachers also hope that students will then feel, “Sweeny’s a good guy and he’s not trying to waste my time. I’ll put in some effort to learn.” You don’t want the students to feel, “If you really want me to pass, just pass me. I don’t want to put in much effort, and if you don’t pass me, I’ll know that you really aren’t on my side.”

    This is a situation where standardized tests can be helpful. Teachers can always make their own tests and assignments easy enough (or generously graded enough) to pass as many people as the teacher wishes. It really is up to the teacher who passes and who doesn’t. But if students have to pass a test that’s out of the teachers hands, he’s not the meanie if you fail. In fact, if he can help you pass it …

    (Alas, the bifurcations continue. A teacher can help kids pass by teaching them tricks and doing mindless (semi-mindless?) drill. Or he can actually get them to understand. In general, the first is easier.)

  2. Iskander says:

    In (British) universities it seems that all undergrad teaching is designed for the lowest common denominator, i.e type two here. It’s true for some of the top ten economics departments at least, not sure about Oxbridge however.

  3. Butler T. Reynolds says:

    At least 75% of my bachelors degree consisted of type 2 courses. This is why our current system needs to die.

Comments are closed.