Tag Archives: critical thinking

Thoughts on Adult Education

Have a mentioned that I am taking classes? I know, all kinds of crazy over here. A perk of working on a university campus is that I have course fees as a part of my benefits package. So I thought, what the hell?

I am taking a Human Resources certificate program that will allow me to apply to get a Certified Human Resources Professional designation. Sounds good right?

I was on my way home from class the other night. Waiting at the bus stop. It was like a flash back to ten years ago when I started my undergraduate degree. And while I was waiting there I over heard a student complaining to a friend about a mid term test grade she received. It went a little something like this: ‘I can not believe they gave me a D+. My instructor said I did great on one part of the test. But then, in the written section I lost all the marks because I didn’t number each question and instead answered it in paragraph form. My teacher didn’t even read it, they just gave me no marks because they couldn’t be bothered to go through and read to see I had all the answers there.”

Here is the crappy thing about university/continuing education level teaching- sometimes it becomes more about the marks then the learning. It is certainly possible that this student didn’t read the instructions and it clearly said to answer each question in point form. And it is even more possible that the instructor has a full course load and no teaching assistant and 150 students in each class and there is no way they could possibly read each students exam if they all wrote it in paragraph form.

But it doesn’t really matter does it? This conversation said something to me about how adult education works. Check the boxes. Get the marks. Define the terms. Get the grade. Learning is not always about actually learning.

The course I am taking is interesting. It is about how people behave and function in organizations, something I find fascinating. Our instructor has a background in adult learning and she fills the class with lots of discussion and group activity. Which is valuable.

But we still have that definition dense, theory thick, no application of theory $125 text book that we have to read 3 chapters a week to keep up with the condensed nature of this course.  I am sorry, I find so little value in that. The value of education is in critical thinking, application and developing skills. But courses so often focus on learning stuff… not what to do with that stuff.

And yet these course and certificates look good on a resume. So we do them.

That is not to say there isn’t something valuable about adult education. There is. But it would be a lot more valuable in my opinion if the course content was boiled down, skill focused and to the point. Don’t overwhelm us with terms to memorize and theories to recall. Help us apply, think and question.

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