Right now I am debating whether studying a subject in an advanced course is more worthwhile than studying it independently. Most courses of this kind require a great deal of reading/information absorption, and then you are expected to make some draw some kind of revolutionary conclusions from it.
For example, let's say that you are in a class on baking cookies. You read hundreds of recipes as an assignment (and bake a few, too). This would be the 'information absorption' part of the class. The 'conclusions' part of the class might be an assignment, perhaps to write your own successful cookie recipe.
Following this formula, we can represent the learning experience thus:
information absorption ➔ drawing conclusionsThis is how I think that most classes are structured. However, it misses out on a key element that should act as a go-between, which is a development of understanding. Without understanding the information, any conclusions drawn will be faulty. So, the new flow would go something like:
information absorption ➔ developing understanding ➔ drawing conclusionsIdeally, we should develop understanding on our own, and discuss what we think during in-class discussions. I see at least two problems with this:
- Most students would rather do other things (like mingle, sleep, or play music) rather than develop and understanding of their schoolwork.
- In-class discussions designed to develop understanding do not often work out well, because of mixed skill levels. If some students are trying to build a remedial understanding, and others are trying to build understanding, the class will be dichotomised and a compensation (where nobody is completely satisfied) will result.
- The student will be self-motivated to study
- The student will develop understanding at his or her own pace