An article from today's Sydney Morning Herald:
Are students' opinions a dead loss?
TODAY'S teenagers are shaped by a multitude of weighty issues - high levels of teenage obesity, a heavy binge drinking culture and a social media landscape with hefty consequences. But pause for a moment and consider the corresponding gargantuan rise in the younger generation's confidence in the value of their opinions.
The sheer weight of their viewpoints is growing exponentially as parents and teachers alike are counselled to hold a young person's opinion in the highest regard. Current thinking in educational circles focuses on students' independence and empowering unwavering self-belief. Our educational approach favours individual participation over instruction.
As a teacher with more than 20 years' experience it is increasingly painful to read and listen to opinion in the absence of background knowledge, research or experience - ''no offence'', teenagers. Past generations paid due regard to the expertise of the teacher and gained intellectual exercise by reading and (gasp) memorising important information. No wonder today's students find university such a challenge, coming from a school system where the mathematics curriculum includes estimation and the English curriculum covers social media. Having recently spent time teaching students in China, I can't help but draw stark comparisons to my local teaching experience.
Students there expect that they will be given a tonne of information and will be assigned extensive homework involving engagement with the instructional material.
Invitations to express opinions are met with puzzlement. Rather, they expect and welcome direction. In contrast, our students launch into impassioned and complex negotiation the moment there is a hint of work to be done (a technique all too familiar to any parent attempting to institute household chores).
When the work comes in (often late) it is littered with sentences starting with ''I think'' - an amusing oxymoron. Little reference is made to any research other than nominal efforts to cut and paste from Wikipedia.
Anyone visiting the supermarket will notice that the fine art of putting one's view across is honed at a very early age - often encouraged in children too young to talk but old enough to point.
Having now taught through generations X, Y and Z, the labelling of the next generation is clear. Generation I - the first, foremost, the centre of attention.
I think I'd better retire before I face the gargantuan task of teaching this next generation of overconfident individuals. Their weighty opinions are too much to bear and I've exercised all my patience.
Lynn Van Der Wagen
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