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Covering(,) Teaching(,) and Learning

After the LIFT (Little Ideas For Teaching) workshop today, I found myself in my office reflecting on the group discussion of teaching and learning when I saw a link to a new TEDFellows blog post on my iGoogle Reader: Higher Education: Where and When Does Real Learning Take Place?

So, with many ideas churning in my brain about grading, exams, participation, groups, phones, attendance, and more, I clicked the link and was pleasantly surprised.

The author, Kyra D. Gaunt, writes about her own curiosity with learning, questions students showing up to college as adult learners, shares thoughts about truth-telling in college, wonders about finding the language of learning, and concludes that real learning involves students focusing on themselves and their own learning as adult learners.

I thought about what Dr. Gaunt would have thought about our workshop discussions today as we asked all sorts of questions of one another: What to do about cell phones in class? Should we give points for attendance? Why would we allow a student to revise a paper or an exam? How can I possibly add another thing to my course when I have so much to cover?

In the midst of all of this one of our colleagues reminded us that covering material is not teaching, and, perhaps more importantly, that teaching is not learning.

These words came back to me as I read through Gaunt’s essay and thought about the questions she was asking: When and where does “learning” actually take place for young adults in the college classroom? Do most faculty even ask the adults that enter our classrooms when and where learning happens for them? If we think “learning” is something “real” that we should be able to measure in time and space, when and where does the act or action we call “learning” actually take place for students-as-adults? Who is classroom learning for?

I think Gaunt asks good and fair questions that cannot be easily answered but should be pondered. Can we clear a space to answer these among the classroom policies, faculty meetings, research deadlines, and next semesters’ syllabus? Maybe, and perhaps, more importantly, should we?