Monday, 15 June 2009

We're Not Used to Thinking Deeply

Image from IdeaChampions.Com.

"Teacher," she says "my friends and I have tried really hard to do well this semester, but it was very difficult."

"Which classes?" I ask. (She is in several of my classes, hence the question.)

"All your classes," she replies.

"Why?" I ask.

"We're not used to thinking deeply," she replies.

And that is the truth. The Korean education system focusses on memorization. This, of course, is not what I require of my students at all. I give them open book exams. At first the idea of an "open book exam" made them really happy, but they soon realized that it didn't help them much. I do require memorization of key concepts--at least they should know the meaning of certain terminology--but what I really test them on is the ability to apply certain skills I've tried to teach them; such as analytical thinking, giving interpretations, motivating ideas, writing persuasively.

If I could get just a handful of them to learn to question things, to wonder about reasons, to find the causes (rather than treat the symptoms), I will feel that I have accomplished something. Of course, it is difficult to evaluate such a paradigm change. Interpreting a poem or critically analysing an essay is one thing, being critical of their "reality", their society, their lives, is something quite different; and it is not something I can keep track of as easily.

Nonetheless, that is my mission. To nurture (creative) thinkers, not mere regurgitators.


Mary-Jane said...

A worthy goal and one which should also serve your students.

Sanko said...

Thank you, I want to believe so. But I try not to forget that I am working in a different culture and that I ought to be careful not to impose my (Western) values of individual free thought onto my students. Memorizing is valued more here than creative thought. Still, if they are not taught to think for themselves at university, where else will they learn it?