As most of us know, “pedagogy” has its roots in the Greek word for child, as in “pediatrics” and, unfortunately, “pedophile.” While pedagogy has come to be a synonym for teaching, its origins in the notion of instruction for young people still linger in higher education. Regardless of the age of the students, we continue to treat them as (pick your metaphor) blank slates or empty vessels: Knowledge is what the professor imparts; the student is essentially passive, at best receptive.

 

This specter of passivity persists in many of the words we use to describe education, even newfangled terms like “delivery” and “providers.” Our language betrays the underlying assumption that students have little to bring to the party. Professors are the ones who “give” the grades. We engage in “diagnostic” testing (i.e., the student is ill and our task is to identify the specific disease). The student is a bundle of deficiencies, not relevant knowledge and experience. Yes, prior-learning assessment exists, but PLA is ultimately about assigning credits. Why not presume that all students have “prior learning” that bears on their current learning?

 

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