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Summary of 2/18/05 Discussion:
What is teaching and learning like at Bryn Mawr?

Is the information shared in college conducive to a peaceful life?
Do we want it to be?

Post-bacs could be rich resources into how science is seen "from the outside." Having to "sell a course to a general audience," rather than assuming the built-in or obligated interest of a captive audience of majors, is a good way for faculty members to learn to connect their fields to students' lives and interests.

There's a difference between education as learned (extrinsic, passive) and as experienced, (intrinsic, active); the latter is the hallmark of the "unschooling" movement, which sees children as naturally curious, and the role of their teachers and mentors as creating a environment to help the child help herself to learn.

Such learning could be--already is--facilitated in this college environment, in, for instance, labs where students are "not told what to do," but rather given an open-ended invitation into "try things and play." Having hands-on experiences motivates students to understand them and piques their interest to explore further on their own.

There is an "uptightness factor" at Bryn Mawr that prevents such play; students immerse themselves in obligations that keep them from having the time for self-directed exploration. Students also "feed off each other," engaging in competition for who can be the biggest "mawtyr" (take the most demanding course load, get the least sleep, etc.)

There are signals from professors about what's allowable: many classes are so carefully scripted before they begin that students do not feel as though they have any role in shaping what is going to happen (even @ the level of revising what they themselves have written). There was some preference expressed for having a class "not knowing where it's going to end."

That would be a very different structure than how most people have been taught. What moves could be made to open up that space?

How much of our education here (which costs $1.89/minute or $80/class) can involve the creation of an environment that pleases us as individuals, vs. needing to prepare us for "the real world"? What does such preparation look like? (Will we be graded on most of our life decisions....?)

We agreed to meet again, 3:30-5 p.m. on Friday, March 18, in the Multicultural Center, to discuss what we would like to see changed about teaching and learning at Bryn Mawr. Conversation is encouraged to continue, in the interim, in the on-line forum.

Return to Bryn Mawr as a Learning/Teaching Environment: A Conversation.


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