Producing learners

December 21, 2012 — Leave a comment

Robert Talbert (Grand Valley State University) recently posted an article titled “We need to produce learners, not just students” on his Casting Out Nines blog that really resonates with me. In the article, Robert expresses what he feels is the goal of higher education and states in general terms how an educator can get on the path to achieving this goal.

There are so many wonderful nuggets in the article. Here’s one of my favorites.

I even care about this more than students’ grades. In my mind, and I think in the minds of most people who employ my students later in life, if you graduate from university and don’t have the skills or dispositions necessary to teach yourself new things for the rest of your life, it doesn’t really matter what your GPA says: You’re not educated. And if I shepherd a student through the university without putting them in a position time and again to hone these skills and dispositions, it doesn’t matter what my title or my course evaluations say: I’m not an educator.

This quote summarizes exactly why I started incorporating inquiry-based learning (IBL) and the Moore method into my courses. IBL is not a magic bullet, but the experiences that I have had watching students transform into independent learners is why I am so passionate about it. I want students to have life-changing experiences! Learning the content of mathematics is just a bonus.

Robert ends the article with the following statement.

But it doesn’t matter whether we use the flipped classroom, IBL, PBL, or what-have-you — what counts is whether we are training people to be able to learn on their own. Doing education without this in mind is just irresponsible.


If you haven’t already, please go read Robert’s article.

Dana Ernst

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Father of two boys, husband, mathematician, cyclist, trail runner, rock climber, and coffee drinker. Columnist for MAA blog Math Ed Matters.