Personal Learning Experiences and Learning Institutions
Grade School and High School
I studied in a Private Catholic school from Grade School to High School which had the Subject Centered Approach and used the Subject Design model. We had 8-10 subjects to study mainly through the lectures and use of textbooks endorsed by the school. Through the lectures, we as learners, are able to acquire knowledge on the subject matter. The assessments through short quiz, long, tests and quarterly exams primarily focus on testing if we have acquired and understood the lesson content. Students are ranked according to their grade average on Math, Science and English. The academic performance is superior non-academic performance (such as sports, arts, music etc.).
Looking back, I see many flaws and danger in this kind of education I had. First, is the lack of deep learning due to the unrealistic isolation and ‘boxing’ of different subjects. Subjects are treated independently of each other thereby developing a limited understanding and processing of concepts and problems among learners – Concepts and problems which are rich, complicated and interdependent in real life. Because of this, learning is not maximised, hampering sound and holistic processing and analysis of future problem solvers. Second, the lecture model creates passivity, dependence and learned helplessness among learners. This model does not cultivate critical thinking, love of learning and confidence because the lecture model does not provide opportunities for learners to grapple with diverse information because information is already processed, sifted and prepared ready for them… what they have to do is simply listen and agree. Lastly, this form of mass education is out of touch with the real purpose of education. This form of education carries a hidden curriculum that communicates that only academic performers are intelligent and that it is the only form of intelligence. It creates a big roadblock to the actualization of each learner’s potential since this favors only a few students. This industrial set-up is dehumanising and as Paulo Freire says this Banking System of education is oppressive. In treating students as passive empty vessels and teachers as subject experts and the only authority, it creates a false dichotomy; learners know nothing, teachers know everything. The only positive thing I can say about this system is that it is well-organized and systematic. If I were a faculty member in this school, teaching, learning and assessment will have clear focus and expectations in the subject.
In College, my university’s approach is Core centered with a mix of Learner centred approach. We are required to take all the subjects in our course and we follow a Curriculum guide which has the list of all subjects required from first to senior year. We had academic freedom in taking electives and classes under General Education; Arts and Humanities, Science and Math. We were assessed differently depending on the class. We do not have block sections and we were able to work and learn with different students from different courses.
My educational experience in the university was an eye opener. Coming from a Subject centered school, I was surprised and impressed how learners are given freedom and choice for their learning. I was able to enrol in classes with are interesting for me even if they are far different from my course. I was able to enjoy learning and I was always amused that we are given the chance to lead our learning. For one, I was able to take a course on Film even if I was majoring in Philosophy. There are several strengths in this approach. First, this approach is able to address the academic needs of the learners through the identification of the core skills and also their unique interest. Learning is more meaningful when the learner is able to participate and engage in the process, make choice and take responsibility. This system creates a win-win model for mastery of core subjects and exploration of unique interest of learners. Second, this approach enables rich collaboration. Since we do not have block sections, we were able to share classes with non-majors. This enriches learning experience for all of us as we exchange perspective, ideas etc during discussion, projects and other group works. Lastly, this system recognizes individuality of learners and more importantly, trust learners to take responsibility and choice of their education. This altogether levels up learning experience because through the academic freedom provided for them, they are given the responsibility to use it well and decide wisely. Trust is a key factor in the education system. If the educational institution/teachers do not trust their learners, they falls on the same oppressive belief system that they know nothing and are not capable of deciding autonomously.
My main criticism is that while it gives academic freedom to students, they should also empower them to make sound decision especially to those disadvantaged in maximising this freedom. For myself, I was the first in our family to reach college and so it was a challenging experience to choose a course even more so to choose subjects that would help me in my career goals. When there are many choices, it could be overwhelming and there are students who need help. As a “First generation college student” or the first in the family to enter university, I needed support I could not find at home and it would be a big help if the universities have means to support this. For first generation students, college is a much more complex experience as they have little support for direction and long term planning for professional career.