Jason Bishop: Making the Most of College

Posted by on February 24, 2010 
Filed under Reading logs

Okay.  So I printed this out and took it to class with me instead of posting on the blog (mistake one), then I forgot to hand it in in class (mistake two)!  So here is my one page summary of the book that I presented last night.

Richard J. Lights highlights the importance of involving student interviews in our assessment of teaching and learning. Why not ask students what they think about their educational experience? In short, the light believes that we as teachers have a lot to learn from students, and he makes a pretty convincing argument. While there are some methodological issues with generalizing his findings (done with Harvard students) to all colleges, I do believe most of his findings are useful to most colleges.

Light begins by pointing out that learning is not just occurring in the classroom. In fact his research shows that when students were asked to think of a moment that changed their lives profoundly four out of five students interviewed reported moments outside of the classroom. Students benefit and are more satisfied with college when they connect their in-class and out of class experiences. The author then moves on to a section on student tips for success in college. He outlines the importance of time management, and specifically dedicating extended blocks of time to writing/studying rather than numerous short burst. Many struggling students come from high school’s that did not require critical thinking (gathering, analyzing, and constructing opinions).

If we understand that a majority of learning occurs outside of the classroom we must become very concerned with homework assignments and facilitating group studying. As many of the student quotes expressed, studying in groups can facilitate constructive criticism, and expose students to differing interpretations of the same material. However, we also must maintain a focus on students in the classroom learning (the author’s one-minute feedback activity on Page 66/69 struck me as a great practice.) Light also reports that faculty loose creditability when they become “predictable” and that they should focus on getting across “how academics in their field think about the world”.

Light then shifts focus to student diversity. He does not site his statistics that 1 out of 6 Harvard students come from families below $20,000, or that 35% of the 2004 graduating class was “non-white”. The use of “non-white” as a category seemed odd, although his later discussions of diversity made up for this. He makes the point that diversity can only have a positive effect in the right environment, which requires a culture of inclusion and a stressing of common ground. He uses student’s reports of negative high school experiences with diversity, and their opposite experience at Harvard to drive home this point. Harvard stresses inclusion and students have the common ground of taking school very seriously and striving to learn. The final student quote is probably the best in the book. The student stresses how he had a diverse classroom focus on affirmative action that could not have been so meaningful without a diverse student body.

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