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October 11, 2005

Improving Our University

Modern educators should be, "conscious of the meaning of education," says Art Therapy Director Nina Denninger. Education comes from the Latin word "educe," which according to Webster's Dictionary means to draw out something hidden, latent, or reserved, and to lead it forth. It implies the bringing out of potential. Our university, in order to be a truly educational institution, must successfully draw out each individual's unique ability. Rather than expect learning to happen through a barrage of sometimes-useful assignments, the university should take advantage of its exquisitely small student to professor ratio, and design coursework that elicits personal responses.

In order for a student to recognize his own potential, his professor must provide assignments that encourage exploratory initiative. In this way students can discover themselves. "Education tends to be far richer for students when they can make connections and establish meaning based on their own life experiences," says Denninger. Professors who conceptualize education as simply an imparting of information, fail to capitalize on student's inherent interests and motivations." Rather than shrink into the nothingness between his mind and the classroom's four walls, his individual potential can be realized.

Any sort of "cookie cutter" approach to education inevitably disadvantages the students. To remedy this, professors can take a constructivist approach, which, according to Professor Denninger, "is predicated on acknowledging that we all construct our own realities." She even goes so far as to say, "Constructivism is the theoretical paradigm that underlies [her] educational practice." All people, coming from different backgrounds, and having learned lessons based on unique personal experiences, utilize education differently. Creating assignments that donít leave room for the expression of individual differences results in the failure of the school system to acknowledge individual strengths. Assigning exercises that are assessed using a more flexible grading system can encourage students to risk exploring personal connections with the required curriculum.

A constructivist approach to education is possible. Web sites like www.myspace.com and www.facebook.com document the passions, hobbies, and beliefs of individual students. Educators could benefit from studying these sites and looking for ways to integrate students' personal interests into their curricula. The result could be infinitely more engaged students who retain and apply the material they've been taught.

Posted by DavidDenninger at October 11, 2005 12:48 PM


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