Jiffy Lube has to be one of the greatest ideas in convenient car care ever devised. But disturbingly, many students seem to want a jiffy lube college education experience; pull in without an appointment, and get the full service education poured into you, then pay the bill and drive away.
But what works so well for my certified pre-owned, fully optioned Buick Park Avenue will not serve my students well. For career success, college must be a time of learning and growth, not quick fixes.
Let’s begin Stephen Covey-like with the end in mind. Employers want to hire problem-solvers, people who can study situations, processes, and systems, make recommendations for improving them, then implement those improvements. Employers want employees who are curious, who want to tackle problems and solve them.
When done correctly, a college education prepares the student to do just that. That is my goal for the communication/public relations classes I teach. It is as it has always been — a quest for knowledge.
Marcy P. Driscoll (2000) says knowledge is a matter of competence with respect to valued enterprises, such as singing a tune, discovering scientific facts, fixing machines, writing poetry, etc. Knowing is a matter of participating in the pursuit of such enterprises, that is, of active engagement in the world.
I can’t simply pour the knowledge needed for carer success into my Millennial students’ brains. There is a difference in knowing something and understanding it. David Perkins and Chris Unger wrote in 1999 that understanding a topic is a matter of knowing it well. But, it is clear that knowledge in itself does not guarantee understanding. So, even if I could give my students the knowledge contained in a course, that does not mean that they would understand it and be able to use it effectively.
True, they might pass the course, but it is better to be able to do something with the knowledge later. Duffy and Jonassen, in 1992, asked if knowledge is an identifiable entity with some fixed truth value. Is the goal of instruction to acquire a knowledge base that is prespecified? They stated one of their major goals is to encourage students to develop socially acceptable systems for exploring their ideas and their differences in opinion.
That is the essential issue in education. As Duffey and Jonassen say, knowledge develops through, and is embedded in, the tasks or experiences of the learner. Students say they want knowledge, but to have knowledge, I believe that students’ knowledge must be co-constructed by them with me as mentor, coach, and helper, and by their team mates in class. This requires higher order thinking, and that is precisely what I wish for them.
We call it “constructivist learning”. According to Richard E. Mayer, writing in 1999, it occurs when learners actively create their own knowledge by trying to make sense out of material that is presented to them. David Jonassen said in an interview in 2001 that education has always assumed that knowledge can be transferred and that we can carefully control the process through education. He calls this a grand illusion. He says that knowledge cannot be managed.
Donald J. Cunningham, writing in 1975, says constructivism holds that learning is a process of building up structures of experience. Learners create interpretations of the world based on their past experiences and their interactions in the world.
Cunningham says the role of the educator in constructivist learning is to show students how to construct knowledge, to promote collaboration with others to bring multiple perspectives to the solving of problems, and to help students arrive at a self-chosen position.
That is the highest and best I can do for my students, for their future employers, and for society itself.