Our view: Teach us concepts, not test answers

We want to see Kent State professors change the way they teach.

In a lot of European schools, you get a book, a lecture and a term paper. You find a way to learn the material because you can’t guess on a term paper. And that knowledge stays with you. You have to know what you’re talking about. You’re forced to understand.

At Kent State, you get a textbook, a PowerPoint presentation and a multiple choice (multiple guess) test.

The textbook is often organized in the same way the class is organized. So your class notes, which are really just a perfect reproduction of the PowerPoint presentation, follow the outline of the textbook.

And the test is a joke. Many of the questions are reworded from the book or PowerPoint. Some of the fill-in-the-blanks are just sentences copied verbatim from the book, with the missing word being the bolded “important” term.

It’s probably beside the point that those tests are curved, have bonus points and can be combined with extra credit.

All of it – the baby feeding of information – in no way leads to knowledge. That’s not how you make someone understand. There are no concepts being expressed in that process.

And that’s the format of just about every Liberal Education Requirement course at this school. There are, of course, commendable exceptions. Some professors aren’t slaves to their PowerPoints.

Too many are. And it’s painful to watch.

Some will not only post their PowerPoint presentation online for students to retrieve, but will pause a lecture to wait for students to finish copying from the overhead projector.

Meanwhile, what are those students learning?

No one’s forcing them to understand and appreciate the way the great thinkers of their field have organized centuries of knowledge into a discipline. Freud, scholasticism and relativity are just words they have to remember for next Friday’s exam.

And they know Freud, scholasticism or relativity will be on next Friday’s exam because the professor tells them it will be. Some professors even read questions exactly as they’ll appear on the test and answer them in class.

It’s almost as if learning isn’t the desired outcome of some of the courses at this school. Any psychology major will tell you long-term memory (knowledge) can’t be acquired by this kind of memorization.

The long-lasting knowledge comes from working to understand the topic. It doesn’t come from copying facts from an outline on an overhead projector. It comes from asking why those facts are accepted and under what circumstances they were developed.

We don’t typically get that on the way to any intellectually challenging degree at Kent State. We’re hopeful the new plan for LERs will address it.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Summer Kent Stater editorial board.