The New Pedagogy--Part 1: Teaching in the Brave New World Mike Field ------------------------ Staff Writer When assistant professor of nursing Susan Appling looks out from the lectern in her Principles and Applications of Nursing Technologies class, the brave new world of education looks back at her. In each class, she faces young students not far out of high school seated beside older students with a previous degree and often a former career or two already on their resumes. Men and women, Hispanic, African American, Caucasian and Asian, they come from many backgrounds with many different life experiences. Some are former Peace Corps volunteers. Others have their master's degrees, or even their doctorates. Many are parents, with young children awaiting them at home. "I was a Hopkins nursing student within the diploma program from 1970 to '73," said Appling of her own educational background. "Back then, we were all fresh-scrubbed 18-year-olds right out of high school without any real life experiences and little we could offer in terms of our own practical knowledge. Today's students are a vastly different lot." Although nursing education--once the near exclusive domain of younger, mostly single women--has changed tremendously, its transformation into an educational milieu of many people from many backgrounds is hardly unique among university disciplines. In fact, nursing may be the perfect model of the new reality on the nation's campuses, where the "traditional" student--young, white, studying full time, living in a dorm and filling the time between youth and adulthood--has given way to a new mosaic of many different students enrolled for many different reasons. Statistics show that only 43 percent of the nation's undergraduates are under the age of 25 and attending a four-year college on a full-time basis. According to the August 1994 issue of Educom Review, students 18-22 years old, attending full time and living in college housing account "for less than one-fourth of all students in higher education today. Adult students, who are primarily part-time and nonresidential, now make up education's new majority." Those statistics are borne out at Hopkins as well, where more than half of the student body is now composed of part-time learners. As the demographic earthquake in student populations continues to shake the foundations of higher education, many observers have begun to question if this change--coupled with startling advances in new technologies and sometimes radical reappraisals of the curricula of many liberal arts disciplines-- will affect not only the composition of classrooms and the selection of classics, but the very ways in which the art and practice of teaching occur. Many of these new students, say educational specialists, have come to school with different aspirations than their predecessors of 20 or 30 years ago. Often, they are not looking for life-building experiences for fulfillment, but career-building opportunities for advancement. Their approach to education and expectations of its rewards are distinctly different, more frequently like a consumer purchasing a product than a spirit in search of knowledge or a soul thirsting for intellectual fulfillment. Certain statistics--record enrollments in part-time business management courses, for instance--would tend to bear this out. Yet many programs, such as Hopkins' ground-breaking Master of Liberal Arts degree, now in its 33rd year and copied widely at other universities, suggest a more complex picture of the educational aspirations of today's diverse student body. Real or not, the change is being noted in universities and in academic circles across the country. "Are our faculty ready," asks the Educom article, "to respond to students who regard themselves as equals of faculty and as purchasers of their services?" Or, for that matter, are teachers ready to use electronic reference rooms, on-line discussion groups and interactive digital CD-ROM technology to expand and supplement more conventional classroom methods? How has teaching changed, and how much must it continue to change--if indeed it must--in order to keep pace with the future? Is a new pedagogy in order? Or even helpful? "I think we--the universities--will have to invent a new pedagogy," said provost Joseph Cooper, a champion of electronic innovation at Hopkins. Among many other new measures, his office has sponsored grants such as the Provost's Educational Technology Awards (The Gazette, 6/26/95) and the SEDE program to support innovations in electronically enhanced education (The Gazette, 9/16/95). "These new technologies have opened an expanded set of opportunities," he said. "No one knows the exact form this new way of teaching will take, but I can't fathom continuing indefinitely along the same old path when our ability to mobilize and present information has dramatically expanded in terms of volume, format and context. The challenge will be to use the technology to customize education, not to routinize it; to preserve the benefits of the old pedagogy of lectures and seminars while enhancing its flexibility, power and reach." If a new pedagogy is in fact arising--and some faculty members flatly reject this concept--it is likely to appear in different guises within different academic disciplines. "We can talk about using different approaches to teaching, but the fact is, it's difficult if not impossible to use the Socratic method to teach engineering," said associate professor of chemical engineering Tim Barbari. Recently, Barbari was selected to receive the W.M. Keck Foundation Award for Engineering Teaching Excellence in recognition of his often innovative approach within the classroom. Like many faculty, Barbari believes teaching must change, not to keep up with new pedagogical technologies, but to keep up with new realities in the classroom. Although the demographics of the engineering undergraduate student body have remained more constant than in some other schools, it is the students themselves, said Barbari, who have changed. "I think that our Hopkins students are as well prepared as always," he said. "But the motivation level is different. These students grew up with computers and related technologies, and as a result, they are less interested in learning how to do things by brute force when they know the same results can be achieved by the push of a button. Unfortunately, understanding the physical phenomena underlying a problem often only comes from brute force." Nor are engineering students the only ones affected by the new realities of facts-at-your-fingertips through the miracles of computer science. A single interactive CD-ROM that can slip unobtrusively into a shirt pocket is capable of containing more detailed information than most faculty can hope to impart in a full semester of teaching. Names, dates, theories and events can be recalled on a personal computer as easily as a quadratic equation can be performed on a handheld calculator. With push button recall and computation now commonplace realities, some educational theorists claim it is not surprising- -or even necessarily unhealthy--that today's students evince a certain reluctance to spend time and effort in simple memorization. They suggest these new, technology-based information aids should reshape the way in which faculty teach. Is it even necessary, they ask, to continue to transmit simple factual information in person through that most venerated of university traditions, the lecture? Others are quick to disagree. "The lecture was invented around 1200 A.D.," said Robert Kargon, the Willis K. Shepard Professor of the History of Science. "It remains the most efficient means of transmitting a body of information from instructor to student. I don't think you'll see it disappear." But that doesn't mean there aren't profound changes on the horizon. Kargon is himself one of a handful of pedagogical pioneers at Hopkins, charting new directions in teaching through the development of a unique undergraduate course, The City, which will employ computer resources such as electronic reserve materials, online discussion groups and a World Wide Web home page in a multidisciplinary team approach. "The purpose of using these new technologies is to enhance what we now have, not only to substitute new methods," Kargon said. "We will still be based in a class with a real teacher and real students. Technology can fill the gaps, but the basics of teaching remain the same." Yet there are some who see a new--and nearly unrecognizable- -pedagogy evolving. "I think the analogy that fits best is recent research that suggests electricity didn't appreciably increase productivity when it first became available," said Lee Watkins, assistant director of Homewood Academic Computing and a proponent of the university's distance learning initiative. "If you have a 19th-century factory organized around a central steam plant you will achieve 19th-century levels of productivity. It's not until the buildings, the infrastructure and the approach are changed that you begin to realize the benefits of new technology. I believe education is no different."
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