We've all got them: Dysfunctional illusions of rigor in higher education

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A colleague sent me a fascinating article today, Dysfunctional Illusions of Rigor: Lessons from the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, by Craig E. Nelson. Nelson discusses several theorists of student learning, from Baxter Magolda to Terenzini and Pascarella to Kuh, and describes his own evolution as teacher over his career.

Nelson organizes the article around eight "dysfunctional illusions of rigor", like number one: "Hard courses weed out weak students. When students fail it is primarily due to inability, weak preparation, or lack of effort." Nelson draws on research literature in student learning to debunk the common assumption that some courses are just hard, and high percentages of students will simply fail. He notes that alternative models of pedagogy can go a long way in facilitating student learning, especially when the pedagogical improvements increase interaction - between the students and the learning material, between the students and instructor, and by extending learning from assessments by giving prompt feedback.

Nelson's article is an engaging discussion of many familiar assumptions about student learning. He doesn't directly address technology in his essay, but the findings and discussion are relevant to all teaching in higher education, including technology-enhanced learning or online learning.

The article is chapter 10 in To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development, Volume 28, Linda B. Nilson, editor and Judith E. Miller, associate editor. Copyright 2010 by John Wiley & sons, Inc.

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This page contains a single entry by Amanda Rondeau published on November 12, 2010 10:49 AM.

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