Changes in Education Thursday, Apr 21 2011 

Something I would add to our class conversation about changes in education–more and more people earning college degrees thereby decreasing the value of the degree–is the way educators and the education systems generally put down trades.  I don’t think choosing one of these trades is inferior to going to college and choosing a different profession; it’s just different. It used to be that plenty of people would enter trade schools when they completed high school, possibly entering trade school before they graduated, but now that’s shunned for the most part (in the US at least).  Trade schools do exist, but the experience I had when my brother looked at going to a trade school for mechanics is that they are few and far between and are more expensive than going to a public university…make sense to you?…sure doesn’t to me! If you don’t go to college, then there is something wrong with you and you’re not going to make something of yourself is the mentality.  Well, I think we can all agree that we need plumbers, electricians, mechanics, etc. and it would be nice to have individuals who’ve been through a trade school as opposed to “on the job training” i.e. trial and error.   Perhaps the issue is that people and our society have gotten so wrapped up in being the best that we’ve lost site of the importance of various aspects of our society…if we’re all college educated professionals, who is going to build and repair our cars, houses, etc?  I read an article in my Educational Psychology class about experiential learning and getting kids involved in the community (K-12), perhaps this thought process can help educators reconnect the dots about the needs of our society.

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Large Classes Thursday, Apr 21 2011 

A bit late in relation to class, but figured I’d weigh in on the large class subject.  This is something that I find daunting and have no idea why this is thrown at new faculty members…the only thing I can come up with is that no one else wants to do it, so here you go low man on the totem pole.  It makes me think of my time as a therapist and particularly when I left Northern VA and returned to Richmond pre-license and had no choice but to partake in the in-home therapy fad.  Yes, I say fad because inevitably, after millions of Medicaid dollars are spent, the powers that be will realize that this is a generally futile practice….that’s a whole different topic though.  Anyway, individuals without a license are the ones spending eight to ten hours a week with families who are about to have their children removed from their home as a last-ditch effort to “save the family.”  This is something you think would be handed to the most experienced clinicians, but no, again low man on the totem pole practice.  There is at least light at the end of the tunnel in regards to teaching large classes.  For everyone who participates in PFF courses and other such programs, we at least know what to expect and have pointers on how to make the best of the situation and shake things up a bit to keep it interesting.  I must say, I was shocked by some of the examples given by our guest speakers about the observed behaviors in some of their large classes…I don’t know if it’s a generational difference or what, but I never would have dreamed of watching a movie in class…I admit I might have thought about shopping for shoes when in large lecture classes, but I wouldn’t have done it.  They also offered good options for ways to engage the students.  One thing that is still difficult to navigate to me is choosing what to actually cover during the class period…usually large classes are introductory courses in which each chapter can and usually is an entire class unto itself.  What do you emphasize in class?…what is most important?…what you find the most interesting?…figuring out what the students find most interesting? 

Not something revolutionary as we’ve already discussed the use of clickers, but here is a video of one of my former professors at William and Mary using clickers in his large class.