Is the Unexamined Program Really Worth Offering?

As we are being invited to take a vigorous look at the programs we are offering, I can’t help but wonder, haven’t we always been doing that? I mean, really, in this information age with new perspectives and burgeoning bags of “what we know” bursting at the seams on every possible topic, can we actually NOT be refreshing our program content annually at the very least? What was known last month is different than what we know this month! “Truth” is being regularly being rediscovered. Do you remember when the brontosaurus went the way of the dinosaur (so to speak) to be replaced by the new “truth” of the Apatosaurus or when we lost a planet or found another one?

Perspectives are shifting as we look around in our world and come to see that there are so many ways of knowing and interpreting that which we experience—not only do we have rose colored glasses but we also have fuchsia, chartreuse, pumpkin, and aquamarine! Given that we are from everywhere as a University community and going everywhere, how can we NOT be incorporating what we learn from our international colleagues (and I include students in “colleagues”)?

We have more information now than ever before about how our main interfacing tool, the brain, works. We can’t possibly be NOT adjusting how we teach given what we now know about how the brain learns, sorts, and bins incoming information.

This call to examine our programs is a huge opportunity to refresh, renew, and reinvigorate what we offer our students and our community. We don’t want to be passing along this tired old chestnut in the name of traditional, “it was good enough for me” when we know our programs could be even stronger, more relevant, and more engaging.

We all know what it feels like to be fired up and enthused about a new concept or being introduced to another way to view the world. We have all experienced the thrill of the ah-ha moment. We know what it feels like to be excited about learning and discovery.

Taking a look at your curriculum is like peering into a closet or pantry with curiosity and neutrality rather than with nostalgia, sentiment or apathy. “I wonder why we are doing this this way?” “Is this the best way?” “Do we still need this?”  “When was the last time anyone used this?” “Are we excited about our program and teaching?”—because if you aren’t no one else is going to be! Listen to new-comers who ask those questions rather than silencing them or telling them “this is how we do things here” when they ask “why.”

Embrace the chance to take your research lens to your curriculum with curiosity, inquisitiveness, neutrality, and genuine interest in what you might find. Be rigorous and thorough. Really want to know what the experience of your students is. Want to be the best you can be with what you’ve got. And then reach…

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