Application of Knowledge Increasing at Universities

When I was looking for an online reference to the quote in my last post, I came across another blog post quoting it with interesting relevance. It discusses a recent article in Time Magazine about the curriculum in at least five US universities changing from pure aquisition of knowledge to emphasising the application of knowledge. I’ll use the […]

When I was looking for an online reference to the quote in my last post, I came across another blog post quoting it with interesting relevance.

It discusses a recent article in Time Magazine about the curriculum in at least five US universities changing from pure aquisition of knowledge to emphasising the application of knowledge. I’ll use the same quote from the article below:

. . . the new approach emphasizes the kind of active learning that gets students thinking and applying knowledge. “Just as one doesn’t become a marathon runner by reading about the Boston Marathon,” says the committee report, “so, too, one doesn’t become a good problem solver by listening to lectures or reading about statistics.” Acknowledging how important extracurricular activities have become on campus, the report calls for a stronger link between the endeavors students pursue inside and outside the classroom. Those studying poverty, for example, absorb more if they also volunteer at a homeless shelter, suggests Bok, whose 2005 book, Our Underachieving Colleges, cites a finding that students remember just 20% of the content of class lectures a week later.

Sonds like a very positive step to me. From personal experience, I have found university education so abstracted at times, that I have completed a Biochemistry degree, still enjoying the subject matter, yet with no idea what to expect once it is applied to a real job. In my case, this meant that once I started a significant practical project (Honors year, after three years of theory), I realised that I had no interest in doing this for a career, and thus was back at square one. Whats more, it seemed like about 75% of my classmates felt the same way, and never got a job in the field they had spent so long studying. That doesn’t seem like a very efficient system to me. Sure, we did have weekly lab work during the degree, but that didn’t really give as an idea of what to expect in a career.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not bitter about this experience – I think the scientific and writing skills and diciplines I leant have been very useful in my time since, but I am sure there must be a more efficient way to learn, not just about the knowledge, but also about your relationship to the knowledge and the industry it is related to. Hopefully a more applied curriculum is a positive step in that direction. 

Author: EricWoods

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