It was my sophomore year in college. I was taking a psychology course and listening to another lecturer, taking thorough notes of everything the instructor said with a certain assumption that the information was "true" and certainly what I needed to know if I was to get the answer "right" on the test. this is the way I was indoctrinated throughout my education, to believe that true, right information was known, and it was my job to learn it. As I listened on this particular day to yet another research study--the hypothesis, the measurements, the data and its conclusions--I was surprised when we were told a different result than the one I expected. With a perplexed, timid curiosity, I raised my hand and asked, "couldn't the data be interpreted to mean this instead....?" Her response was blunt and matter of fact: "Oh yes--absolutely; it could mean that...." and then continued on to the next study without pause or explanation.I fell stunned and in an instant thought of all that had already been told to us as "true facts" and I suddenly realized that it was ALL open to question and debate! this was the moment I became a psychology major, and a straight A student. I was thrilled and excited most by the possibility that "They" didn't know all the answers and that even me, a lowly undergrad student might ask fresh questions or discover new insights.
I did not become a "psychologist" formally, but a teacher--which is to say, much the same thing. I have been teaching at a highly ranked midwestern university for 16 years. My philosophy of education today is still based on my epiphany 25 years ago. I have come to view the questions as more important than answers because I notice that when students are allowed to risk voicing questions--all questions, especially the wild, crazy ones--their genuine curiosity and imagination makes the learning natural, and easy. And they remember what they learn better because it is connected to their own experience and innate inquisitiveness. As a result, a lot of students in my classes get high grades. I am against grading systems such as "curves" that rank students best to worst, A to F. I disagree with systems in which someone is required to fail, merely by rank. I find that if you can convince these well trained students to put questions ahead of answers, learning ahead of getting good grades, that good grades are a natural result. I believe everyone should be able to get an A. And if they are allowed to be interested enough in learning, I find that many do.
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