ES 331/767 Educational Philosophy
Make others understand.
It is more excellent than making them remember,
for intelligence is much greater than memory.
(Gracián 1992 translation)
Teaching and learning
The art of teaching is to organize information, theories, and knowledge
on a subject into a framework, from which students may learn. Teaching is not simply spoon-feeding a mass of
facts--covering the subject, which students digest for later recall on examinations. Learning is the
art of understanding basic terminology, principles, and methods of a subject within an appropriate cultural
context. Rote memorization of names, places, dates, and formulas is not learning. Information overload would
soon result from the latter approach, given the explosive increase of scientific knowledge. Learning the
ability to find data, sort useful information, organize thoughts, and identify critical issues are far more
important than merely knowing facts, which of course are subject to change as new discoveries are made and new
theoretical concepts come forth.
Science is a human invention—a human attempt to understand the universe based on observation and logical
interpretation. As a human pursuit, science is subject to constant modification and evolution. On this basis,
learning must be an interactive and life-long endeavor for both teachers and students. The knowledge and methods
of the 1970s are obsolete today, and likewise current thinking will go out of date within a few years or decades.
The most important product of a college education should be recognition of change as a fundamental aspect of life
in the emerging Age of Communication. Knowing how to learn or relearn will be critical for individuals,
nations, and the global community in the coming millenium.
Importance of college education
At the student
level, knowledge and skills learned in college should first and foremost enrich the student's perception of the
world. These skills also have potential value for professional careers. According to ESU alumni, three aspects
are most important:
These basic areas of college education were emphasized by Eric Vander Velde, earth science major, class of 1981.
He gave this assessment after a decade of work as an environmental consultant in California. It has become clear
that academic performance in college is not always a good indicator for career success. Good interpersonal
relationships and flexibility are just as important as is sound scientific work.
- Communication skills—written and verbal. This includes writing technical
and non-technical reports, giving oral presentations, working with colleagues, making poster presentations,
preparing abstracts, and mastering means of electronic communication: e-mail, World Wide Web, FTP, etc.
- Practical course work—methods and principles. Learning how to investigate subjects and find out
new information are more important than knowing current factual data. Broad, interdisciplinary studies will
be more useful in the future than specialization in particular disciplines.
- Project management skills—organization and scheduling. This includes: setting realistic goals,
making up schedules, progressing step by step, cooperating with other team members, and following through to
completion. In other words, getting the work done right and done on time!
The age of global communications is underway with the World Wide Web and other Internet services. Visiting the Danish Royal Library is now just as easy as a trip to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Business, entertainment,
education, publication, art, science, leisure, and all other manifestations of culture will change fundamentally
during this human generation. These changes will be pervasive and profound, at least as great as those brought
about by the industrial revolution. Education must and will respond to these rapid developments, as our concepts
of culture and environment evolve. This course is designed to take full advantage of emerging Internet
technologies. Students today stand at the threshold of global information and communications.
Students should expect to play an active role in their progress for this course.
Self-motivation and self-discipline are necessary. The traditional lecture/textbook mode of instruction is largely
passive and one way—teacher to student. The format for this course will require much more student involvement in
the learning process. Students are encouraged to explore the subject without strict limitations from the
instructor. Students are expected to discover information via World Wide Web. Within the subject framework—the
ice ages, all manner of physical and cultural phenomena are relevant.
Return to ice age homepage.
ES 331/767 © J.S. Aber (2013).
- Gracián, B. 1992. The art of worldly wisdom, a pocket oracle. Translated by C. Maurer, Doubleday, New York, 182 p.