Blog Post

Distrust in Academics

“How should I answer these questions—according to what you taught me, or how I usually think about these things?”  That’s what a student asked a professor who was trying to assess their understanding of some basic concepts in a physics course.  As chronicled in an article titled “Twilight of the Lecture,” (http://harvardmagazine.com/2012/03/twilight-of-the-lecture) the students did not have a good understanding of the basic concepts taught in the course though they were passing all the exams.  The point of the article was that this reveals a huge gap between what professors think they are teaching by lecture and what students really learn.  I think there is another important point to glean from this not-so-isolated phenomenon.  

Let’s consider that question again from the student: “How should I answer these questions—according to what you taught me, or how I usually think about these things?”  I think this question reveals another gap worth addressing.  The gap between what students think they already know and what they must tolerate from professors in order to pass courses.  I suspect this question reveals a deep distrust of what is being taught in the classroom.  What are the possible sources of this distrust and what can be done to address it?  I’m not sure I have an answer but I will share some thoughts on the question.

I have noticed a growing skepticism among students in my courses for several years now.  The best example of this happened to me in an Introduction to Philosophy course.  I was talking to a student before class began.  She was describing her lack of interest in what we were covering in the course and I asked her what she was interested in.  I was hoping to show her a connection between what we were covering in the course and what she was already interested in.  She replied that her major was psychology.  I responded by pointing out that psychology was really an outgrowth of philosophy and many of the first psychologists were, in fact, also philosophers to which she replied “so you say.”  

Naturally I was taken aback by this response!  Could I have just made up the connection between philosophy and psychology?  Perhaps I did this from an unacknowledged bias for philosophy.  Perhaps I would have claimed such spurious connections between philosophy and anything she mentioned.  While I have not encountered such overt distrust in what I say in the classroom often I have noticed a growing trend towards subtle distrust.    

I’m not saying that this distrust is always misplaced and should be replaced by a blind acceptance of whatever is said in the classroom by professors.  Goodness knows academics have made mistakes in the past and will continue to do so.  But, what is troubling is the ease with which consensus expert knowledge is being rejected out of hand before even being learned.  Michael Specter writes about this in his book Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives.

There is so much knowledge that we have gained even in the past few decades that provides useful insights into many areas of life and while it’s not possible to keep up with the production of this knowledge, as an academic and educator it is quite disheartening to see students who lack even a basic curiosity about this knowledge and do not even see that it might be beneficial to them to reach out and learn about these new insights.  


What are your thoughts on this?  What can be done to inspire both curiosity and critical thinking regarding what is being taught in the classroom?  

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25 comments

Joe,

Thanks for the comment.  You've definitely raised some points for me to think about.  I actually like the idea of fact checking and think it would be interesting to see what would happen if a politician would resolve to be openly fact checked for all their claims and correct ones that didn't pass muster.  

I'd be happy to have students actively fact checking me in our discussions as it would probably lead to a lote of useful insights for everyone.  

One issue I discuss in my logic and critical thinking courses is the problem of the confirmation bias.  Fact checking will have to address this problem since we all are prone to only look for confirming evidence for our beliefs and are not very open to seek out or take seriously disconfirming evidence.  This is part of what I was getting at in my original post which I should probably clarify and expand on.  

 

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Kevin,

This is a much larger subject than your framing suggests, since it deals with "authority" and the credibility of online, in person, professional, academic, and political "truth." The first reason students say "so you say" (which, incidentally, suggets they trust you quite a bit to risk a snarky response) is that most faculty detest fact checking. In another blog this afternoon I went "trolling" in criticism of what was probably a very nice faculty member who "prohibits" cell phones in his class, while I encourage them. I'm 70, and my memory for detail slides, so I cherish those students who can correct a date from 1973 to 1968 or the spelling of a name or the state of a city, etc. Encouraging a monitor builds strength precisely where most faculty perceive - and, in prohibitions, exacerbate - discord.

The reason this is such a large subject is that even large classes can be made collegial, and the more colleagues students have the more assured they become, and the more readily they accept feedback. Feedback is infinitely more critical to their learning than "assessments" or "tests" or other measures, and, particularly if it can be made collegial and friendly, it can be used quickly and almost invisibly to affirm knowledge gains. And that affirmation is infinitely more productive than a "correct" score on a test they never again see.

Still another benefit of this observation is that good teachers can create and maintain the kind of respect and authority that needs no other enforcement. When a class - large or small - can trust teachers who trust each other they learn a wide range of verification nuances: most things learned are more than right or wrong, and most link past experience to future knowledge. When it's safe to test the knowledge, it's far more productive than to test its recall.

Two teaching experiences remind me of these insights: 40 years ago I taught a "foundations of education" class to graduate and undergraduate students in a major university. Having had only one formal course in "education," I sat on the edge of the stage and told them their task was to teach me, and, when we'd shared their teaching, we'd know what foundations were most critical to our - individual and group - education. The class had the highest ratings in the graduate program and 100% retention for the semester, two reasonable metrics for success. Years later students still correspond, and that metric is probably even more important.

About five years ago I was a consultant to a Kellogg project on assessment. My task was to observe students at the beginning and end of a course, and assess their growth. Knowing none of their names on the first day, I handed out the assessment - it was a one page list of "soft skills" ranging from reliability to inquiry - and asked them to score themselves. Only one of the fifteen gave himself high scores in everything, and his peers just joked about him until he created a clearer profile. I then assembled their self-assessments into a single form, and they used it themselves to create teams - "you're good at this, and I'm good where you're not, so let's worth together." It was one of the most successful teams in over a year.

Give them the tools and they'll finish the job ... if it's worth doing in the first place.

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What a marvelous discussion!   It makes me think about an exercise I actually build into my classes now and into almost every public lecture I now give about why we need to reform higher education and all K-12 now for the world we live in.   It turns your smart comments about distrust and skepticism, Kevin, and yours about student-centered learning, Joe, in a slight different direction but I suspect there are similar impulses at work.

 

I'm a big believer in Think-Pair-Share as a way to engage the most introverted students in the room and tame the most extroverted and also as a very sound kick off for a discussion, that airs many points of view before either (1) I've said anything about my own or (2) the loudest person in class has.   The research on the silencing in the seminar room by the loudest voices and the teacher's is pretty distressing to those schooled in believing that education is about a process of learning to think not remembering the product of someone else's process.  Here's the blog I wrote about Think-Pair-Share.

 

The exercise that your discussion above brought up for me is one where I pass out the old index cards (my high tec device, machine made paper and machine made pencils!) and ask students to take 30 seconds to write the answer to "Who invented the printing press?"   I have them finish and put down their index cards and pencils---and I often really play up the Professor At the Lectern "staging" of this "write the right answer now" performance.  

Then I tell them that, if they have doubts about the answer on their card, if they think that, by Googling, they will come up with a different and better answer, they are now free to use their laptops or smart phones for 90 seconds to come up with a better one.  

I have done this maybe a dozen times and I have never had a single student rest comfortable with the Gutenberg answer that, to date, 100% of them write first on their cards (which I collect).  They all know that, although they have written the correct answer, there's another more complicted story.   When the 90 seconds is up, they are still scribbling away tons of information about 9th and 10th century China, 11th century Korea, and on and on. 

That's the "Think" part of the exercise.   For "Share" I have them turn to someone next to them and tell them about what they have written in both exercises on their cards.  About half way through this exercise (usually 90 seconds again) I give them another prompt:  "If you haven't already, talk about the difference between what you wrote first and second?  Come up with the  most important thing for you about this exercise?"  And then, in the "pair" manner, I have them formulate an idea together.

When we then come back as a group,  we go around and each pair of students "shares" what they wrote on the card.  Amazing.  It's not just distrust and skepticism of teachers but a very deep, ingrained, almost automatic and very wise distrust and skepticism of canned answers----of which they have to have nearly perfect command of in order to have perfect test scores in order to get into a school like Duke or UNC (where it may be as hard or even more difficult to get in, defunding of US public education being what it is now).     So we standardize the heck out of their learning for a generation of students who knows that what they wrote first on their card is the right answer ...    and it is limited, Eurocentric, partial, simplistic, and, well, just wrong.

 

To me that is a profound insight and it may be why I love teaching these days, more than I ever have, and I have always loved teaching.   The distrust and skepticism of my students about formal, official ways of knowing is, to my mind, exactly right.  And it is something we can build on in the future.    

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What does it mean to be "interested"? And to what level should interest by an expectation or even a hope for students in a class? Futhermore, what responsibility, if any, does a teacher have for fostering or ensuring that students are "interested." Has anyone ever sat in a classroom as a student and not been able to imagine other more interesting things that s/he might be doing? 

I run a first-year composition program at a large state university. It would be the rare student indeed who would claim an interest in taking composition, who would choose to take the course if it were not required. And those that would make that choice would not do so out of interest but rather out of some belief in their own inadequacy as academic writers. I have made an academic career in researching the intersections between emerging digital media/information technologies, rhetoric, and pedagogy. By most accounts one would say that I am "interested" in the subject. But am I so interested in it that I would be studying these topics if I weren't paid to do so? Probably not. Perhaps you will think I am a philistine, but when I go to academic conferences in my field I can struggle to remain interested in the presentations being given, even though they are putatively in my "area of interest." Is sitting in a windowless hotel conference room for 90 minutes listening to three academics read their papers as interesting as having a few beers with some old colleagues and tossing around some ideas? I'd say no. That doesn't mean I don't go sit in those conference panels though. 

Can I think of more interesting things to do than read your post and write this comment? Of course. So why are we here doing this? Why do we do work even when it isn't interesting or when there is no apparent reward for doing so? What motivates us to choose to do difficult, less interesting, even boring things? 

 

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Thanks for this, Cathy. I think I'll try it this semester (classes begin in about 3 weeks here in New Zealand universities). Although I understand the arguments against overusing the lecture format, I enjoy talking and need to learn to pull back (perhaps I should have chosen this as my topic for the first essay assignment!). 

Following up on Alex's comment above, we all find ourselves in less-than-desirable teaching/learning/conference situations. However rigid the formats, there are usually opportunities to try something different. These opportunities are rarely offered to us, but that doesn't stop us from taking them. 

I attended a local conference on "Surveillance, Copyright, Privacy: The End of the Open Internet" this past weekend. Partly to play on the surveillance theme, I used TweetDeck to automatically publish 33 numbered tweets about what I was saying at one-minute intervals as I presented. I then published these as a Storify (online, via Twitter and on my blog). Only the keynotes were recorded (Graham Murdock was terrific http://goo.gl/C1Nni0), so I used my phone to record my voice myself, using a free app that came with the phone. I uploaded the audio recording to my blog (via SoundCloud) with the slides (embedded from SlideShare). The resulting experience is probably better than the live performance in many ways (http://goo.gl/qrY4jb). The viewer can stop and start the audio, go back and forth with the slides, and take as much time as s/he wants to check out the links on the slides. All of this cost me nothing but my time (and not a lot of time). 

There were, perhaps, 20 people in the room when I presented (not uncommon at a conference with more than one stream), but there are many more who might be interested in what I had to say out there in the world. More importantly, there are people out there who I would benefit from hearing from who share my interests (or who have contrary views that I need to hear). Getting our work out there can help us to make these connectilons, and there is nothing to stop us from addressing the local via the global. I’m learning how to do this from courses like #phonar (http://phonar.covmedia.co.uk) and #ds106 (http://ds106.us). Also, I am learning quite a lot in an online course about the future of higher education  . . .

I realize, however, that my experiment doesn't address the one-way, broadcast model that most conference presentations and lectures, including my own, still follow. We need better tools, processes and practices that facilitate a more conversational approach that will enable more substantial engagement between teacher and student, and between student and student. We need to learn to think of ourselves as part of a network of interdependent actors, as part of an ecology of learners. If we really want to change higher education (and move from the present situation to a preferred one in so many other ways), we have to be prepared to change our idea of ourselves and our understand of our relationships with others and with the environment. I better stop now, before I REALLY get off topic!

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I was once a substitute teacher in a high school health course. After handing out the forms they were to fill out - which is a typical substitute duty - I looked at them and discovered the class was finishing up a unit on sex ed. So I asked them if they'd spent any time on the subject. "Sure, we did it last week and it's already a boring topic," was the most common answer. "So, did you talk about HIV?," I asked. "Yea, yea, we did that last month, we know all about it."

"So," said I, "what do you know about PEP and PrEP?" Blank looks. I pointed to the computer in the back of the class and suggested they look it up on google. After a quick inquiry, they exploded with questions about why their teacher - and books - didn't tell them about these forms of prevention. Quite meekly, I suggested that now they can teach their teacher.

Ironically enough I don't think such inquiry is off topic at all - in fact, the whole point ought to be guided, catalytic inquiries. Harvard's Right Question Institute is one such model, but there are many, many more. A much better exam than most teachers could construct, for example, would be one constructed by teams of students, who then would grade each other for how useful the answers might be. If we talk about "flipping" classrooms, why not "flip" the whole thing? It doesn't mean teachers don't teach, but it does mean that teaching is something unlike what many of those teachers are used to.

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I've actually used the Right Question Institute model with some good results.  I think freeing students to be active learners and inquire for themselves is very useful.

 

One of the points I didn't sufficiently elaobrate on in my original post was the larger worry of a distrust in the knowledge that we have especially from the sciences.  There are many parents who refuse to vaccinate their children (at least in part) because of a denial of what we know about vaccination.  There are other, equally troubling, examples.  Climate change denial.  Denial about what we know about how the world works thanks to the findings of chemistry, biology, and physics.  I don't know how much individual experiences with professors contribute to this but it could be significant.  Does how we teach create this larger distrust?  If teachers can make the subject of sex boring it should not be surprising that our students graduate to adults with little respect and use for the amount we do know about how the world works.

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You raise an interesting point. Distrust in the sciences can be made more prevalent through the use of the internet. As you mentioned, the anti-vaccine movement has been endlessly re-blogged until many people believed they were truly malicious. Often, people who get their information from dubious sources such as these hold these beliefs firm, which can cause the distrust in teachers. Additionally, students who may not have natural interests in such mentioned subjects may find themselves distrusting.

While it certainly “feels” like the distrust and “denial about what we know about how the world works thanks to the findings of chemistry, biology, and physics,” has grown, really, it’s just the voice of these dissenters that has grown. The internet has been a wonderful tool to decrease skepticism of science, and increase skepticism of the “things we just know” (e.g. religious fanaticism).

-Andrew Shaw, Patrick Schermer, Cameron Sumner

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Posted on Behalf of Tory Rogers, Schoolcraft College Student


Learning in a new and unconventional way is a scary idea to most students.  It means straying away from the norm of the traditional college lecture; knowing more than just book material. This idea of teaching in a way that allows students to refer to one another as opposed to referring to a text book is phenomenal. This new method allows for students to relate to one another in a way that a professor and student just cannot reach. When putting students in these new positions it allows for them to actually learn more.


Craig Lambert’s method is to give the class questions that may not be in the textbook. He first allows the students to answer these questions by themselves, and then eventually take those answers to a group and defend them. By doing this, the correct answer is eventually reached by every student in the group.


Professor Lambert’s example that since elementary school children have sat at tables facing one another is a good one. This is probably why in early childhood we learn so much. It is also said that somewhere from then on until college students unlearn this classroom style. Students need to relearn what it means to sit face to face and actually learn something from their peers.


Professor Lambert's concept is so fantastic because students can relate and have more understanding for other students because they are all in the same position in life at this point in time. The students are all trying to reach a common goal which is to answer the question the professor has given to them. This new way of teaching is not only inventive but also necessary in any classroom environment for constructive learning

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Posted on Behalf of Alene Archie, Schoolcraft College Student


The article vocalizes lot of students’ viewpoints and how society has changed and education has not. But there is distrust in teacher and the traditional lecture. Students now feel like they’ve learned more outside of class and that they can apply more in everyday life than what professors say. Now students have succumbed to an indifferent feeling towards school.


In my personal experience in my four years in high school, I honestly cannot remember what I really learned.  I feel like I’m in a redundant education system. There’s no sense of enlightenment or giving me experience outside of using a pen and paper. Physics, Trigonometry, and Chemistry are not used outside of the school building in my everyday life.


As far as distrust in my teachers, I’ve had a Latino English that spoke more broken English than trying to teach us how to advance our papers and writing. I’ve had a math teacher that needed a student to get in front of the class and teach the class for her. All of these mishaps have given me distrust in the education system.

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We currently are in our English 102 Class at Schoolcraft College. We are a Group of intuitive young folk out for a good debate. Our class “prohibits cell phone use” when unnecessary or disruptive to the classroom. As we are all discussing now at 3:24 pm at Schoolcraft College in the middle of class, we are currently using our cell phones for research and we are using laptops to post this comment.  “Distrust in academics” portrays valid points, in which students are supposed to retain information of basic scientific principles. Let’s be realistic, how many people in a physics class will have this information fully retained? This is why student interaction is necessary.  (http://harvardmagazine.com/2012/03/twilight-of-the-lecture) “Twilight of the Lecture” which is the article Distrust in Academics is based on. In that article it mentioned how lecture was solved much faster and efficient with student problem solving. Now lets use our imagination shall we? Sit in a classroom in the middle of lecture, pause and take a look around at all those blank faces. If the students don’t comprehend it the first time through lecturing, what will make them learn afterwards? Well if other students can help others comprehend in a different light then the professor why not learn from them? This is how this concept works. This classroom without cell phones helps all of us focus and interact with colleagues more. We all have research homework assigned to us, individually, yet when we come into class and we discuss with our colleagues to learn a better concept and understanding of the subject. Even though we are in an English class collaborating with colleagues helps us individually become more creative with our writing. We learn more about our individuality by seeing different sides to debates and other postings of this nature.

 

Team Sluaghter House

Suzane Hakim

Collin Flynn

Dan Striks

Sydney Miller

Ian Bollman

Donae Woolfork

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We currently are in our English 102 Class at Schoolcraft College. We are a Group of intuitive young folk out for a good debate. Our class “prohibits cell phone use” when unnecessary or disruptive to the classroom. As we are all discussing now at 3:24 pm at Schoolcraft College in the middle of class, we are currently using our cell phones for research and we are using laptops to post this comment.  “Distrust in academics” portrays valid points, in which students are supposed to retain information of basic scientific principles. Let’s be realistic, how many people in a physics class will have this information fully retained? This is why student interaction is necessary.  (http://harvardmagazine.com/2012/03/twilight-of-the-lecture) “Twilight of the Lecture” which is the article Distrust in Academics is based on. In that article it mentioned how lecture was solved much faster and efficient with student problem solving. Now lets use our imagination shall we? Sit in a classroom in the middle of lecture, pause and take a look around at all those blank faces. If the students don’t comprehend it the first time through lecturing, what will make them learn afterwards? Well if other students can help others comprehend in a different light then the professor why not learn from them? This is how this concept works. This classroom without cell phones helps all of us focus and interact with colleagues more. We all have research homework assigned to us, individually, yet when we come into class and we discuss with our colleagues to learn a better concept and understanding of the subject. Even though we are in an English class collaborating with colleagues helps us individually become more creative with our writing. We learn more about our individuality by seeing different sides to debates and other postings of this nature.

 

Team Sluaghter House

Suzane Hakim

Collin Flynn

Dan Striks

Sydney Miller

Ian Bollman

Donae Woolfork

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Posted on behalf of Schoolcraft College students Reshma Kallumkal, Emily Best, and Vera Sears.

 

As students, we have experienced having multiple professors with many different teaching styles. Some professors prefer to stick to the traditional teaching such as lecturing and having us take notes. While others enjoy a student centered environment.  Though of course it's not one size fits all learning. Each student has a specific way of best taking in information. To be more specific, there are two ways students enjoy learning and that is group work or by themselves. Those who enjoy group work we call them extroverts. Extroverts enjoy sharing their ideas and love getting one another's attentions. They would fit perfectly in a student centered classroom. Now, those who wish to work alone we call them introverts. Introverts often accomplish more by working separately, because there is no conflict involved among peers. Professors that lecture and expect notes are the best for introverts.

 

So, what are we learning from our professors?  

 

Well, student centered class and lectures are both great but it is not a great idea to generalize. Both should be occruing in the classrooms. Making student understand that there truly are no “stupid” questions as they say would not only help the students but also the professors by helping them understand what the student is truly struggling with."

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What an amazing class project, to have students themselves weigh in on the topic of whether students do or do not distrust academics!   We pontificate far too often on behalf of students instead of letting students speak for themselve.  That's the whole point of student-centered pedagogy, letting students have a voice.   You speak loud and strong.    Go, Ocelot Scholars!

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Never in my academic career have been able to connect and share thoughts and opinions with my peers and multiple professors on an intellectual level. This is so refreshing , being able to express myself and have others feel the exact way I am knowing that we do matter , we aren't just a " class or group " we are individuals with independent thoughts . Yes, we do end up coming together and sharing our " individuality " to create a meaningful and suspenseful discussion with one another . Student centered classes has changed education . The world isn't at a stand still with technology or it's economy , why should education be frozen in ice age ? We are all moving forward , but with what? An historic way of teaching ? Student centered classes as well as Moocs even online classes has given students the opportunity to expand and become more in tuned with the higher education and #FutureEd . Congratulations Cathy Davidson to the work you and your team have done and most of all, thank you for letting our voice be heard.

Suzanne M Hakim.
Student at School Craft College

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Yes of course we should trust our professor on knowing what to do, knowing what to teach and which is the best method to present their class lessons. For some subjects, like physics or math, it is easy to trust what is being taught as accurate since these are based on formulas and laws which can be derived and checked.  Other courses may be subjective and based on opinion or ideology.  In these cases, it may not be so easy to trust what is being taught.  There may be times when a professor doesn’t have the answer and prefers the class to work it out together. The method or style may influence the trust worthiness as well.  Some lecture from their own experience and expert understanding and those that read word for word from the subject textbook.  Some expect the student to take notes while others may provide handouts or encourage peer learning from one another. These can form our opinion and trust in what the instructor is teaching.  As students, all we can do is hope that our education systems train the professor to do their job and get the lesson across as best as possible.  The trust will come with a well delivered course that lends credibility to the professor.     

Nicoe Taylor 

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I think there is definitely a link between distrusting our professors and our ready access to global information. It's so easy to find out what is going on in other countries and that means that news of corruption travels quickly. From greed-fueled oil wars to people slaughtering their neighbors in brutal civil wars to government officials laundering money for their own personal expenses, we see corruption in all forms of "authority". This can lead to an anti-authority attitude, and we generally see professors as authority figures. I think the widespread corruption also causes us to be skeptical in all situations. Also, I believe that many students don't feel like they're really learning in their generally lecture-driven classes. I personally feel like I haven't really learned anything long-term in years. I am a generally visual and interactive learner, so traditional lecture only works for me if you want me to memorize what you say and spit it back to you. But I'm not going to trust you with my education if I don't feel I'm being educated.

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As a student, I feel that distrust in the classroom is very common. While reading the title of this blog the first thing that came to mind is, how can I trust a professor when he or she never even learns my name? Out of 15 weeks, meeting 2 times a week, I find that to be a issue with my education process simply because it makes me feel as if im just another seat filler contributing to their paycheck, rather than their student. For me it causes a lack of interest in what they are teaching.

All profesors should adopt the "Student-centered" way of teaching because it shifts the mindset of being in another boring lecture trying to obsorb everything the profesors are saying just to get by and past the exams. Trust comes from building relationships and engaging with students rather than being silent the whole class, dosing off, running to the restroom, and daydreaming about somewhere else you'd rather be. In majority of college courses, profesor's lecture every class period except exam days. I know that it is the students resonsibility to pay attention, and put in study hours to be successful in the class, however, if professor's adopted the student centered method a lot of students would be better of in terms of passing and being interested in the class. As a previous comment stated, most people are not taking course because they are interested in the course, they take it because they have to. So it helps the the professor is actually enthusiastic about what they will be teaching!

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Yes I totally agree with you that there is definitely a link between distrusting our professors and our ready access to global information. It has been a part of history that some people don't trust our authority figures. Some do, but there has always been the few that have that anti-authority attitude when they don't agree with what the authority figure is doing. It relates to how the U. S. got their revolution started against Great Britain, we didn't agree with the authority figure so we got that anti-authority attitude ultimately forming the American Revolution. So I also believe that some students feel like they don't learn in certain teaching styles causing them to not trust the teacher that we see as the authority figure in a class.

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We find that students don’t truly care about the topic that a teacher is talking about unless it “deals” with what they think they’re in school for. Students have tunnel vision when it comes to their schooling. They want the easiest way to get the degree, though because of this they will most like find it harder for themselves for they don’t see “the connection between philosophy and psychology”-( Kevin Browne). As stated in the article Major Decisions “Some students go to college knowing exactly what they want to do. But most don’t. At Penn State, 80 percent of freshmen — even those who have declared a major — say they are uncertain about their major, and half will change their minds after they declare, sometimes more than once.” Some students think that the idea they have for their future is right but they may not realize that something might need a core class that they were hoping to avoid.

Anna Guzik, and help with other classmates in Dr. Burgs class.

 

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I found this troubling in economics classes as well. The more honest instructors ask, on exams, according to the model we studied in class what happens. Which made me feel hugely better giving them the answer they wanted.

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I have incorporated many of the ideas in the discussion of "Distrust in Academics" in "Learning in New and Unconventional Ways is Scary" which I published in Etena Sacca-vajjena.  I hope that the students find that I have characterized their views well while incorporating them into some of my own thoughts about promoting quality education.

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I have cited your comment in my "Tech Savvy Students vs. Jimmie F. Bloink Furniture" which I published in my teaching blog.

I argue that "The attitude that 'If there is anything that I want to know, just look it up on the internet' is problematic not only because it is not true. A more serious problem is that relying only on the Internet or any other single research strategy gives a distorted view of the world....as a professor, I must work to convince tech savvy students both that the Internet is a valuable research tool and that relying just on the Internet facilitates ignorance."

My blog entry is not a response to your very good points.  However, your daughter's comment and my recent research on the Jimmie F. Bloink Furniture Company served as inspiration.

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Distrust in academics may well be a reflection of distrust in societal authority, which professors represent in an education environment. Connection to the availability of information today represents a factor that plays a role in what students value as learning. The student's "so what" response speaks to, how is the information taught in the class relevant to my life experiences and path I have chosen? The student's attitude may seem self-serving. However, students as individuals are focusing on learning experiences that will hopefully help them learn to navigate the world. Undeniably, students are responsible for their learning. On the same note, as facilitators of learning, instructors are responsible for providing an enriching experience where the learner is motivated to engage and interact with learning. Ambivalence towards questions on a test may reflect a student's questioning the relevancy of that specific knowledge. Why is knowing, subsequently demonstrating an understanding of the content relevant to the student's life? Teachers may see a connection between mastery of content and the affect upon the student's academic career. But today's students' ability to compartmentalize experiences leaves education, as just one experience that must fit into a complex system of utilization. What my tech savy daughter has taught me over the years. If there is anything that I want to know, just look it up on the internet. In many ways, that speakes to the necessity for demonstrating knowledge that is readibly available. 

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Your comment resonated with me. I worry sometimes that a big shift towards student centred learning will foster narcissism rather than education. Perhaps the trend that Kevin Browne has noticed is also a symptom of that shift? It could also be a symptom of the increasing instrumentalization of education - so many students are in post-secondary education because they want a degree to get a job. What is 'interesting' and 'relevant' starts to get filtered through that lens.

Many important or necessary things in life are not necessarily "interesting," though I think that "interesting" and "relevant" is often a synonym for "entertaining." I find myself under tremendous pressure as a teaching assistant and instructor to make everything entertaining, fun, and not too difficult. My institution's course evaluations ask the students about the degree to which the instructor inspired their interest in the topic. What is the student's responsibility to bring their own imagination, motivation, and engagement to the classroom? I'm not saying that professors should phone it in, speak like robots and use their overhead slides from the 1970s. But shouldn't education, at least sometimes, help students to understand that "its not all about you."

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