In higher education, the “weed-out classes,” freshman year classes that aim eliminate students that cannot survive a rigorous major, may not contribute to what a student needs for the current degree in science and technology fields. Often these classes are based on heavy amounts of information or large number of assignments rather than critical thinking and problem solving skills. The information age has result in a plethora of new skills required by employers. It may be shorted sighted for them to expect college graduates to have these already honed skills in whatever form of technology the company utilizes, but they do. They weed-out prospective employees based on lack of current technical skills rather than lack of evidence of higher thinking skills.
What I’m discovering in the digital age are high school students that know most of the viral videos and personal secrets reveal by the stars of sports and the cinema, and yet cannot deal with negative numbers. Face it, given a complete choice of curriculum most students will veer towards the entertaining and sensational.
The constant flood of momentary sensational videos available on the Internet should eventually leave students bored. Yet they keep returning because sensationalism seems addictive as well as entertaining. It is not much different than games; the very characteristic which keeps them invested and involved in games, also keeps the playing rather than producing.
Before students can choose for themselves they have to go through the difficult process of learning to organize knowledge and fit it into real world applications. Most students never go through the process of using executive functions in education; they don’t figure out what they need to know. With the increase in amount of information needed for specialization, students should start figuring out how to learn what they don’t know, beginning at age 14. (A century or so ago it was the age when most children started working in their life careers.) The technology/science/math actually required in students’ chosen field should be the one they learn extremely well.
As an art major, I had to rely on chemistry for printmaking and photography. My knowledge of geometry and trig contributed to creating computer art before the software was developed which eliminated the need for math, but increased the need to memorize icons. Producing a constant flow of innovative and well crafted art work required a lot of effort. But instructors were available to aid those that had the willingness to work through this. The massive weed-out classes do not provide that. Now, I develop training and curricula. How did I get from art to instructional design? Actually learning how to solve problems in higher education may have resulted in failing on some tasks, but it also helped me figure out what I didn’t know.
Anderson, Janna; Boyles, Jan Lauren & Rainie, Lee. The Future of Higher Education, Jul 27, 2012 (viewed 23 Jan 2013)
Koebler, Jason. Experts: ‘Weed Out’ Classes Are Killing STEM Achievement April 19, 2012 (viewed 23 Jan 2013)