I don’t think we are doing a good enough job of preparing high school students for the university experience. We need to do more!
- We should increase class sizes in high school up to 500, so that students get the experience of being in a large lecture hall. We may want to ease students into this experience, so we should gradually increase up to 500 students per class, perhaps at 20 students a year. Working backwards, this would mean we should start with kindergarten class sizes of 260 students.
- We should make high schools larger. No more measly 2,000-student high schools. They should have 20,000 to 40,000 students at least!
- We should hire mostly teachers who have little formal training in teaching and are mostly interested in pursuing their own research. The lowest level classes in the school should be taught by graduate students with little to no teaching experience.
- We should reduce summative assessment in our schools to two exams per semester and use little to no formative assessment. If the students do not understand, they need to study more.
- If our students are struggling, we should just keep putting them into remedial courses until they drop out. Why would we offer them any support? They will be on their own in university!
- We should charge students ever increasing amounts for tuition and force students to take out gigantic student loans in order to complete high school if they cannot afford to pay.
- We should drop all of the ‘soft’ courses from our schools. Students do not need to take home economics, planning 10, or shop class. We should also make physical education optional. After all, our job is to prepare students minds for academia, not prepare them for life.
- We need to teach students how to navigate depersonalized bureacracy. Therefore we should make high school as depersonalized and bureacratic as possible.
- We should encourage our high school students to drink, so that we can replicate the drinking cultures prevalent on many university campuses.
(Or maybe we should stop backwards designing from university and instead focus on building effective practice, whether or not it "prepares students for university"?)
I have been thinking about this a lot. I teach in a college prep school, and much of the conversation revolves around preparing kids for college. That is one way that people defend exams and lectures. I used to buy into that a lot more. I see some shift at the university level, but I am tired of being driven by what college professors do. I am beginning to think we need to educate students the best ways that we can to be engaged, resilient and thoughtful. Then students may be able to put some pressure on the universities to update their teaching. While I spent many years waiting for change from above, I now think we need to build from the bottom up. Students deserve better, and they should know what that looks like. Your bullet points explain a large portion of my disillusionment with higher ed which led me to abandon my dissertation and head for independent school teaching. Thanks for your post. It hit home for me.
February 16, 2013 — 12:55 pm
David Wees says:
Thank you, obviously, I agree with you. This post was initiated by a conversation I had yesterday with a couple of colleagues of mine about the argument that we should give students long exams because it helps prepare them for university exams.
February 16, 2013 — 1:04 pm
Brian Bailey says:
Great post! Both Higher Ed and K-12 are ripe for change, the former clinging to a thousand year-old format and the latter to an industrial revolution format. Luckily, I think we’ve reached a tipping point for change. Educators in K-12 / Higher Ed need to commit to change rather than being bystanders and resisters should find another occupation (I base that on 22 years working in education – no apologies whatsoever).
February 19, 2013 — 11:30 am
Keith Schoch says:
Loved this post! Shows in a funny way the asinine way in which universities conduct themselves. Not just funny, but also criminal when you consider how much per year a student is paying to attend. Thanks for the laugh!
February 23, 2013 — 9:17 am
Although I find this post quite funny, I also have to degree with a few things. Students who are struggling in university receive quite a bit of support. There are also many other assessments that take place besides exams. Many students have to write essays, conduct seminars, create presentations and complete individual and group projects as well as write exams. Lastly, not all universities are depersonalized. Many have small class sizes even in the first year and the professors and get to know the students as they work with them.
June 7, 2013 — 12:51 pm
David Wees says:
Absolutely, you are right, this is an over-exaggeration to make a point, and does not reflect reality at all universities. As it turns out, it mostly describes my first year of university fairly accurately, but that was in 1992-1993 and I’m sure universities have changed somewhat since then.
June 7, 2013 — 2:12 pm