More learning, less teaching

The traditional University lecture is not dead, but it 's not the best model for learning.

This message, delivered -- in a lecture format -- to about 70 people, was part of the keynote address for a recent student-organized symposium on the need for universities to shift from a teaching paradigm to a learning paradigm in educating their students. Lectures fall in the teaching paradigm category.

The keynote speaker, Theodore J. Marchese, vice president of the American Association for Higher Education and editor of Change magazine, pointed to a wealth of research and other literature supporting the learning paradigm, which is not dissimilar from John Dewey's assertion that knowing cannot be separated from doing.

Marchese pointed out that the learning paradigm was not completely foreign to university teaching. The best of graduate school education allows the student to develop interests and study and converse in a community, under the supervision of an expert who starts as a taskmaster, then becomes a coach, and then a mentor, he said. The student ultimately becomes an independent learner and practitioner.

"You don't get into the Chicago Bulls by memorizing the rules of basketball," he said. "You learn basketball by doing."

Marchese pointed to research in psychology, workplace studies, brain studies, wisdom literature and work in evolutionary psychology and evolutionary biology -- all of which support the learning paradigm as a more effective method for encouraging learning.

The symposium was the second presented by a group of 12 masters and doctoral students in the higher education division of the Graduate School of Education wanting to focus on the most pressing issues facing faculty, administrators and students. SPHERE, or Students at Penn for Higher Education Research and Evaluation, formed in October 1996. More information about the symposium can be found on the SPHERE home page.

The text of Marchese's speech is also on the Web.

Originally published on April 30, 1998