Old School New School: Anatomy of a Lecture

Reading Time: 7 minutes

From Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose, California, Dr. Deborah Snyder and John Duhring, authors of a new higher education series in advance of their upcoming book, tentatively titled “Old School, New School, No School,” provide a new perspective on what higher education means and how it can be more effectively experienced across the globe. Read earlier pieces here “View from the US.”

anatomy-lecture

Adapting To College Life

Once accepted into college, high school graduates must acclimate themselves to their new surroundings, get to know their new colleagues and prepare themselves for the challenges that lie ahead. In elite schools, a host of traditions serve to bring students together, to provide a basis for them to drop whatever facade they might have developed and to face the world of higher education head-on. Some schools, such as Stanford, schedule field trips, week-long camping trips with groups of entering freshmen. Mount Holyoke celebrates the first sunny day during the Fall semester by canceling all classes and taking all freshman on a hike to a nearby peak for tea at the summit. Across colleges of all sizes, campus living groups hold parties and mixers to enable upper level students to reconnect while providing networking opportunities for newbies.

Without question, networking is essential for all students to establish a base of operations. The question is, can networks form even when students are not outgoing and not around others who are? Surprisingly, the answer is YES. Simple mimicry, it turns out, is what extroverts use to “break the ice” and form potentially valuable relationships. It’s a skill that anyone can learn, since it’s a natural part of being human. It is practiced throughout careers, even when asking “what would so-and-so do?” when struggling with a complex problem, or telling a team to “see how so-and-so does it” when establishing trust and safety while in a leadership position.

At the same time as social media has moved networking beyond the exclusive domain of elite institutions, new research is also surfacing that suggests that these schools do not necessarily provide better classroom experiences, either. These findings suggest that elite-level higher education is not defined by place and tradition. As outcomes-oriented research measures the adaptation of students to campus life, the social interactions as well as the classroom experiences provided by colleges and other higher education institutions will receive increased scrutiny. Whether in class or not, students seek out who to listen to,  who to compare themselves with and who to model themselves on. When we see higher education as a component within the process of adaptation, bringing transformational activities into the classroom provides an opportunity for elite-level experiences across a spectrum of institutions.

Anatomy of a Lecture

To examine an introductory lecture at an elite institution shows how the composition of word sketches plays a key role in the learning process. UC Berkeley professor Marian Diamond provided one of the first YouTube series of lectures for her Integrative Biology 131 class in 2005. Her first lecture

introduces students to the course and also reveals how she teaches and why she operates as she does. Note she is sketching out the course for her students, and within her lecture she has them sketch their notes along with her- she has them mimic her actions. Even with 750 students in her class, she knows from decades of experience and a deep passion for her role exactly what they need to do to quickly absorb the material she presents. She has buried gems throughout her presentation.

At the 5:30 mark in the lecture,

she tells her audience she wants them to use “kinesthetic sense”, to write in their own handwriting exactly what she writes on the board. She is enforcing them to recall what they have just witnessed. She knows this method of forced recollection is a skill that will stay with them forever. She lets them know it is not only OK to mimic her, she expects it and talks about successful former students who have told her how valuable this process has become in their lives.

At the 6:41 mark, she forces her audience to introduce themselves to someone they don’t know.

To ask who they are, what they are studying and what they think they might want to become. She then calls for their attention and speaks to the power of peers. “We consider ourselves a big family here”, she says and then she makes arrangements to help students find “study buddies” and invites two random students to have lunch with her at the faculty club. Talk about networking and the value of finding alternative perspectives that help students adapt to the rigors of what lies ahead!

At the 15:07 mark, she recommends a coloring book for her course, in order to reinforce the kinesthetic aspects to learning.

She mentions that the book was written by a former student and has sold over 4 million copies. Considering that this video was taken at a time before MOOCs, it’s too bad online course designers haven’t developed effective use of kinesthetic methods to embed the learning experience afforded through their platforms. After all, here it is clearly a core aspect of traditional elite-level higher education.

At the 29:22 mark, she explains why she writes in front of the class, “because it gives you time to think”. This reflection process ends up taking a substantial amount of class time. When watching the lecture, the observer can almost sense the students considering what they are observing as she writes on the board.

Of course, she is prodding her students to take control of their own learning, to let their curiosity guide them as she patiently documents the course in front of them.

At the 36:21 mark, she uses the chalkboard to draw. She sketches out what she is talking about and of course she encourages her students to mimic her actions.

She calls it a cartoon, but her actions show her awareness that drawing by itself requires learning. It is a form of composition that she uses to drive home nuances of relative positioning that cannot be easily described by words alone.

Finally, at the 42:24 mark, she expands on the “art of science” with a view from a scanning microscope inside a bone.

She then shares a fascinating image cut through a skull and another generated by an MRI device. She asks her students to reflect on their own image when they next look at themselves in the mirror, to imagine the structures in play as they move their awareness, to see themselves in a new way.

Reflecting on this elite-level introductory lecture, without question Professor Diamond is sketching a fascinating new world for her audience. She is an artist, as are all great teachers. This master of the art of the lecture offers her students a new way of seeing themselves. She knows this will force them to reconsider how they think, even to think for themselves for the first time. She knows that higher education is not what she is doing, it is what is happening to her students. She inspires and prods them to adapt, and to compose themselves in the process. This classic introduction to anatomy provides a foundational understanding how learning starts with a sketch, a hint of what might be developed further.

Professor Diamond’s methods are not unlike those employed by the engineer who sketches his process flow on a whiteboard so his contractors can apply their skills correctly, the entrepreneur who sketches his financial model on the back of a napkin so a potential employee or investor is moved to get involved, or the manager who sketches the timeline of a project so her team understands their role in the process. Professor Diamond mentions a one-unit extension course in which professionals from various careers provide brief sketches of their lives and how they now apply what they have learned beyond college. She sets the stage for her students to become their own teachers and to pursue their own higher education, their own art.

One Stroke At A Time

startup-photosOnce students land on campus, they are surrounded by new environments and new role models. They choose who to listen to, whether faculty or peers. They seek out inspiration and companions. It’s natural for social activities to balance the rigors of the classroom, yet the classroom provides the most powerful point of focus. Students learn to express themselves not only with groups of friends but also within the structures of the compositions they create. The lecture we have witnessed illustrates how classroom activities powerfully influence what students experience in their first days at an elite college campus.

Traditionally, composition is thought of as linked to writing assignments. Using letters to form words to form scenarios that form compositions made up of characters and actions has been the mainstay of traditional higher education. Ultimately, students learn to tell stories through these kinds of compositions, to express themselves, to persuade, to engage through the practice of putting words on paper. Professor Diamond’s lecture provides evidence to challenge this as a limited view.

The patience required to move from the rudiments of sentence structure through to building essays that prove a point or tell a story taxes the most talented student. As we have seen, employing group activities, mimicry, and art enables compositions to bubble up ad hoc. The notebooks of Professor Diamond’s students form the testimony to prove the value of creating sketches. Her lecture is not a listening and thinking exercise, it is not about consuming knowledge. It is about mimicry, about networking, about learning to perform and to produce. Adapting to the world like this is what makes college courses so special.

The effect of a lecture presented this way, as a sketch for students to elaborate on in their own way, helps each of them discover their own truth, to think critically about their own path. Creating sketches that evolve into compositions capable of persuading, engaging and informing takes years of practice, feedback and inspiration. Yet, the process starts in a single day. This is the art by which most students receive their degrees. This is the skill-set they will use repeatedly as a cornerstone of their professional careers.

Earlier segments in chronological order: 

How Technology Is “Democratising” The Future Of Learning

Adapting To Higher Education: The Identity Struggle

From American Scholar To Global Player

 

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid

From Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose, California, Dr. Deborah Snyder and John Duhring, authors of a new higher education series in advance of their upcoming book, tentatively titled “Old School, New School, No School,” provide a new perspective on what higher education means and how it can be more effectively experienced across the globe. Read earlier pieces here “View from the US.” Adapting To College Life Once accepted into college, high school graduates must acclimate themselves to their new surroundings, get to know their new colleagues and prepare themselves for the challenges that lie ahead. In elite schools, a host...

Reading Time: 7 minutes

From Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose, California, Dr. Deborah Snyder and John Duhring, authors of a new higher education series in advance of their upcoming book, tentatively titled “Old School, New School, No School,” provide a new perspective on what higher education means and how it can be more effectively experienced across the globe. Read earlier pieces here “View from the US.”

anatomy-lecture

Adapting To College Life

Once accepted into college, high school graduates must acclimate themselves to their new surroundings, get to know their new colleagues and prepare themselves for the challenges that lie ahead. In elite schools, a host of traditions serve to bring students together, to provide a basis for them to drop whatever facade they might have developed and to face the world of higher education head-on. Some schools, such as Stanford, schedule field trips, week-long camping trips with groups of entering freshmen. Mount Holyoke celebrates the first sunny day during the Fall semester by canceling all classes and taking all freshman on a hike to a nearby peak for tea at the summit. Across colleges of all sizes, campus living groups hold parties and mixers to enable upper level students to reconnect while providing networking opportunities for newbies.

Without question, networking is essential for all students to establish a base of operations. The question is, can networks form even when students are not outgoing and not around others who are? Surprisingly, the answer is YES. Simple mimicry, it turns out, is what extroverts use to “break the ice” and form potentially valuable relationships. It’s a skill that anyone can learn, since it’s a natural part of being human. It is practiced throughout careers, even when asking “what would so-and-so do?” when struggling with a complex problem, or telling a team to “see how so-and-so does it” when establishing trust and safety while in a leadership position.

At the same time as social media has moved networking beyond the exclusive domain of elite institutions, new research is also surfacing that suggests that these schools do not necessarily provide better classroom experiences, either. These findings suggest that elite-level higher education is not defined by place and tradition. As outcomes-oriented research measures the adaptation of students to campus life, the social interactions as well as the classroom experiences provided by colleges and other higher education institutions will receive increased scrutiny. Whether in class or not, students seek out who to listen to,  who to compare themselves with and who to model themselves on. When we see higher education as a component within the process of adaptation, bringing transformational activities into the classroom provides an opportunity for elite-level experiences across a spectrum of institutions.

Anatomy of a Lecture

To examine an introductory lecture at an elite institution shows how the composition of word sketches plays a key role in the learning process. UC Berkeley professor Marian Diamond provided one of the first YouTube series of lectures for her Integrative Biology 131 class in 2005. Her first lecture

introduces students to the course and also reveals how she teaches and why she operates as she does. Note she is sketching out the course for her students, and within her lecture she has them sketch their notes along with her- she has them mimic her actions. Even with 750 students in her class, she knows from decades of experience and a deep passion for her role exactly what they need to do to quickly absorb the material she presents. She has buried gems throughout her presentation.

At the 5:30 mark in the lecture,

she tells her audience she wants them to use “kinesthetic sense”, to write in their own handwriting exactly what she writes on the board. She is enforcing them to recall what they have just witnessed. She knows this method of forced recollection is a skill that will stay with them forever. She lets them know it is not only OK to mimic her, she expects it and talks about successful former students who have told her how valuable this process has become in their lives.

At the 6:41 mark, she forces her audience to introduce themselves to someone they don’t know.

To ask who they are, what they are studying and what they think they might want to become. She then calls for their attention and speaks to the power of peers. “We consider ourselves a big family here”, she says and then she makes arrangements to help students find “study buddies” and invites two random students to have lunch with her at the faculty club. Talk about networking and the value of finding alternative perspectives that help students adapt to the rigors of what lies ahead!

At the 15:07 mark, she recommends a coloring book for her course, in order to reinforce the kinesthetic aspects to learning.

She mentions that the book was written by a former student and has sold over 4 million copies. Considering that this video was taken at a time before MOOCs, it’s too bad online course designers haven’t developed effective use of kinesthetic methods to embed the learning experience afforded through their platforms. After all, here it is clearly a core aspect of traditional elite-level higher education.

At the 29:22 mark, she explains why she writes in front of the class, “because it gives you time to think”. This reflection process ends up taking a substantial amount of class time. When watching the lecture, the observer can almost sense the students considering what they are observing as she writes on the board.

Of course, she is prodding her students to take control of their own learning, to let their curiosity guide them as she patiently documents the course in front of them.

At the 36:21 mark, she uses the chalkboard to draw. She sketches out what she is talking about and of course she encourages her students to mimic her actions.

She calls it a cartoon, but her actions show her awareness that drawing by itself requires learning. It is a form of composition that she uses to drive home nuances of relative positioning that cannot be easily described by words alone.

Finally, at the 42:24 mark, she expands on the “art of science” with a view from a scanning microscope inside a bone.

She then shares a fascinating image cut through a skull and another generated by an MRI device. She asks her students to reflect on their own image when they next look at themselves in the mirror, to imagine the structures in play as they move their awareness, to see themselves in a new way.

Reflecting on this elite-level introductory lecture, without question Professor Diamond is sketching a fascinating new world for her audience. She is an artist, as are all great teachers. This master of the art of the lecture offers her students a new way of seeing themselves. She knows this will force them to reconsider how they think, even to think for themselves for the first time. She knows that higher education is not what she is doing, it is what is happening to her students. She inspires and prods them to adapt, and to compose themselves in the process. This classic introduction to anatomy provides a foundational understanding how learning starts with a sketch, a hint of what might be developed further.

Professor Diamond’s methods are not unlike those employed by the engineer who sketches his process flow on a whiteboard so his contractors can apply their skills correctly, the entrepreneur who sketches his financial model on the back of a napkin so a potential employee or investor is moved to get involved, or the manager who sketches the timeline of a project so her team understands their role in the process. Professor Diamond mentions a one-unit extension course in which professionals from various careers provide brief sketches of their lives and how they now apply what they have learned beyond college. She sets the stage for her students to become their own teachers and to pursue their own higher education, their own art.

One Stroke At A Time

startup-photosOnce students land on campus, they are surrounded by new environments and new role models. They choose who to listen to, whether faculty or peers. They seek out inspiration and companions. It’s natural for social activities to balance the rigors of the classroom, yet the classroom provides the most powerful point of focus. Students learn to express themselves not only with groups of friends but also within the structures of the compositions they create. The lecture we have witnessed illustrates how classroom activities powerfully influence what students experience in their first days at an elite college campus.

Traditionally, composition is thought of as linked to writing assignments. Using letters to form words to form scenarios that form compositions made up of characters and actions has been the mainstay of traditional higher education. Ultimately, students learn to tell stories through these kinds of compositions, to express themselves, to persuade, to engage through the practice of putting words on paper. Professor Diamond’s lecture provides evidence to challenge this as a limited view.

The patience required to move from the rudiments of sentence structure through to building essays that prove a point or tell a story taxes the most talented student. As we have seen, employing group activities, mimicry, and art enables compositions to bubble up ad hoc. The notebooks of Professor Diamond’s students form the testimony to prove the value of creating sketches. Her lecture is not a listening and thinking exercise, it is not about consuming knowledge. It is about mimicry, about networking, about learning to perform and to produce. Adapting to the world like this is what makes college courses so special.

The effect of a lecture presented this way, as a sketch for students to elaborate on in their own way, helps each of them discover their own truth, to think critically about their own path. Creating sketches that evolve into compositions capable of persuading, engaging and informing takes years of practice, feedback and inspiration. Yet, the process starts in a single day. This is the art by which most students receive their degrees. This is the skill-set they will use repeatedly as a cornerstone of their professional careers.

Earlier segments in chronological order: 

How Technology Is “Democratising” The Future Of Learning

Adapting To Higher Education: The Identity Struggle

From American Scholar To Global Player

 

Do you like this post?
  • Fascinated
  • Happy
  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Bored
  • Afraid