Transforming education or transforming teaching and learning?

Interesting…I hear comments from faculty at times about their belief in constructivism…knowledge generation with students as partners in that generation…experience being at the center of that construction. Then, when I ask questions about what actually happens in the course, I hear a variety of things that seem to contradict constructivist thought: standard syllabus, paper/pencil tests, hours of time within the 4×4 walls, didactic teaching, drill and skill test preparation exercises, etc.

I don’t hear much about actually working with students to create new knowledge, joint design of curriculum and learning activities, jointly planned learning outcomes, and cooperatively developed assessment of those outcomes.

To me, transforming higher education isn’t about changing administrative structures, reorganizing colleges, or taking on a different fundamental role as an institution. Isn’t it about what happens in the teaching/learning process? Isn’t it about the relationship between faculty and student? Isn’t it about the opportunities afforded students to take responsibility for their learning, facilitated by highly skilled faculty? Isn’t it about the level of expectations we hold for each other? Isn’t it about how we measure progress and modification of practice based upon what we find in those measures? Isn’t it about working together to address major issues/problems that confront us in our communities, our country, our world? Isn’t it about developing the skills needed to be successful in the workplace as well as in the home and community?

I could be wrong, but I believe constructivist literature teaches us how to answer those questions through a fundamentally different approach to teaching and learning, rather than reliance upon the historical view of what constitutes teaching and learning in the ‘academy.’

If we walk into a learning situation on a university campus in 2016 and see the same kind of things happening that were happening in 1950 (with maybe the exception of an electronic whiteboard instead of a green chalkboard or a computer enhanced lecture instead of a talking head), then have we really transformed anything?

I’m certainly more comfortable in the 1950’s classroom than in the 2016 classroom. And I’m certainly comfortable with being given my lecture notes to study/memorize for the test.

But I’m old.