Panning for Nuggets

Nugget #1:

Why more serious? Because the UCLA students and professors (and their Harvard counterparts) knew something that contradicted the very theories they were trying to articulate and not one of them could get to that contradictory knowledge to say, “Hey, wait a minute…”! In some form, they “knew” about the opposite seasons and that they had seen the sun and the moon in the sky at the same time, but they did not “know” in any operational sense of being able to pull it out of their memories when thinking about related topics. Their “knowings” were isolated instead of set up to be colliding steadily with new ideas as they were formed and considered.

I pulled this nugget from the article (courtesy of Dr. Campbell) because it discusses the very real problem of what I am going to call “linear learning”. For the purpose of my argument, this will be defined as learning as a means to an end (ie. A grade) rather than learning to understand and connect. I would like to argue that this is the exact opposite of the learning I am advocating in my studies. This linear learning is extrinsic, done for a purpose/as a job, and then pushed to the back of the brain. What I am calling intrinsic learning is basically knowledge for knowledge’s sake. It is being inspired by a topic and making connections from one to another. (hint hint Wikipedia Wars hint hint) I really enjoyed the start of this article because it was such a great demonstration of the pitfalls of this linear learning.

Nugget #2:

Optimal arousal is presumed to lead to optimal human performance. If arousal is too low, one seeks stimulation in order to raise the arousal level; if it seeks uncomfortably high levels, one seeks arousal reduction. In both cases, the individual manifests an increased willingness to engage in exploratory behavior.

Disclaimer: This quote seems far less awkwardly sexual in nature in context of the rest of the reading. So let’s all get our minds out of the collective gutter and carry on. This book discusses the role of interest, which itself is discussed and defined, in learning and development. This nugget in particular relates both to my project as a whole and the nugget above in its discussion of the value of interest in learning, or even in more general matters. It’s often said that students who goof off in class are simply bored and/or not properly challenged. To borrow from this nugget, they therefore seek stimulation in order to raise their arousal level. If students were taught and allowed to follow their passions at a young age, they would have increased arousal and therefore interest, and then their learning and knowledge would branch out to make more connections. This would successfully correct the problem addressed above of linear learning.

Nugget #3:

This is an interesting article which gives informat
ion about gifted students and their
motivations for accepting challenges. Students may
report they are feeling bored in class, this
article analyzes the possible meanings of being “bo
red” in school. The article states that students
may; truly be bored, the work may be too hard, the
student may not like the work, the student
may fear failure, the student may prefer other work
, or the student may feel if they do some work
they will be expected to do more and harder work

I’m gonna take a bit of a tangent from my overarching theme and just tie this back into the example I gave before of students claiming to be ” bored “. See? I didn’t just make this up. As a former GT student (gifted & talented program, not bragging) I can vouch for the importance of relating to other peers on that plane of academic interest and ability. If these students and their needs are not addressed we risk losing their interest in academia and school-based success. It is important to pinpoint the cause of this loss of interest soon and remedy it.

So all in all to tie these together: I know it is unrealistic to cater to every child’s individual interests and complete a required curriculum, but I find it so important to grab a student’s interest while they’re young. We need to work on fostering a life-long love of knowledge and teach them how to enjoy research and learning.

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Panning for Nuggets

My first nugget comes from an online book, which prohibits me from interacting with it too much physically. (cutting/pasting, highlighting)  I was very struck by one of the introductory paragraphs about a class started at the University of Tulsa made to encourage the students to ask “Why” and “who cares?” when examining research.  Sound familiar? It should! That’s exactly what this class is trying to do! Or at least, what I am trying to take away from this class. The Tulsa class is even called “Inquiry of Communication”, so clearly VCU is hopping on a popular train here.  This book claims that “those questions are critically important to research, not merely because they should drive scholars to justify their work or simply because they might give us insight into the motivation(s) of scholarship, but rather, they engage the scholar and reader in a conversation about values.”

I think this sentence stuck out more to me so far than any other throughout this class. This perfectly describes both what this course is trying to teach us, as well as what I am researching and advocating — finding personal interest in value in the research of others. Because if we can’t care, why should anyone else? Why bother? The pursuit of knowledge should be invigorating and intrinsic in nature. Unfortunately it so rarely is.  I bet I could interview everyone in this class about being forced in the past to research topics they couldn’t give two … piles of feces … about. Everyone knows that feeling and it is the most soul crushing and uninspiring one there is.  We need to bring back positive associations with research and allow students to include their field of genuine interest in whatever mandatory project they are completing.  I am very excited to have found this nugget because it gives me hope about finding more published works along the same lines.

Speaking of which…Nugget #2!

 

My second nugget consists of the three results found from a study on how modern students conduct research.

  1. A majority of students began their research by consulting course readings or the library’s Web site for online access to scholarly journals. To a lesser extent, students used Yahoo!, Google, and Wikipedia as first steps.

  2. Most students consulted aggregated research resources — many of which had been identified for their scholarly quality by professors, librarians, or library databases.

  3. Many students were challenged by research tasks, especially selecting and evaluating information and figuring out professors’ expectations for quality research.

These results are followed by a pie chart displaying that 40% of students started their research with the specified course reading, followed by 23% using their school’s internet library.  Only about 3% of students claimed that Wikipedia was their first step in research, which I actually found surprisingly low.  However the sample size was small so that may have something to do with it.  Or maybe I need to give students the benefit of the doubt and maybe they actually jump straight into the deep end.   I also found it interesting that the results specified how many students needed to be referred to aggregate resources by their professors or other institutional help.  Does this mean students are not taught at a young enough age how to conduct scholarly research? Do middle school students need some course equivalent to “Inquiry of Communication”? (see nugget above).  Maybe if we encourage students to get interested in research at a younger age they would have an easier time getting started in higher education classes. 

 

In summary, I think both of these nuggets, in different ways, support my claim that students need to be taught how to follow their passion in an academic environment.  Through proper research training and broad prompts students will move from Wikipedia linksurfing to in depth database searching, all in the pursuit of knowledge rather than in the pursuit of an A.