where are we headed?

i just posted a link with a resignation letter from a disgruntled adjunct – one who lost her house due to the low pay of the job.  i completely understand the sentiment, as adjunct faculty myself.  the current educational system (in combination with the current economic system) no longer sustains the student numbers necessary to keep education affordable, and to keep many departments thriving.  full time faculty need free time from teaching to continue to improve and expand knowledge, while students need faculty who can teach.  unfortunately these two do not usually work together, one supports full time faculty (researching) and one supports adjuncts (teaching).  in an effort to keep college cost effective, departments have increased the number of part time faculty they hire, keeping the hours low so they won’t be required to provide health insurance (and all the costs associated with that) due to Obama care (as a side note I do support Obama care, but it is hurting education on accident).  i’m also starting to see entire state school systems adopt MOOC programs to help their faculty include technology in the classroom, and to further reduce the teaching dollars spent per department.  i recently read an outstanding critique of most MOOC courses.  these courses were designed by faculty to allow ‘outsiders’ in to their classrooms.  the old method of taping lectures, showing students in the actual course interacting, and posting notes holds the most value within these courses.  these methods of teaching do not support good learning.  on a particularly frustrating day i decided, since i study the internet and online courses, I’ll check the job offerings by the big three MOOC companies to see what they’re looking for.  almost entirely computer engineering positions were posted.  the functional job i did see at one company listed ‘pedagogical understanding’ in the desired, not required category.  a deep understanding of pedagogy was deemed desirable, but not required.  that is the state of current education.  you don’t need to understand teaching to sell massive courses to campuses with the idea that the school will save tons of money because the administrators no longer care about good teaching and good learning, they care about the money.  so while we bemoan the low academic rankings of the united states, and push outdated learning methods in cheap MOOCs, we really can only blame ourselves.  the education system will continue to decline, test scores will not improve unless we focus on teaching and learning.  while good teaching and learning can occur in MOOCs, and other online settings, time, training, effort and smart hires need to happen for there to be any change in learning, which will ultimately affect test scores.  which means schools need to spend money on teachers, good teachers.  this is true not just in higher education, but across the board.  what is it we really want from education?  a student who can think or one who can pass a test?  what should a bachelor’s degree obtain for students?  we really need to start asking the hard questions before we go too far along this path and see test results significantly decline with a failure to see how we set ourselves up for that decline.


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