Learning is your own responsibility, dude

A friend of mine works as mediator in disputes. He was recently asked to assist in a dispute between a student and an institution of higher learning. The student had not passed a first-year course, and informed the university that he would sue them for damages, as they were obliged to ensure that he obtained an education, as he had paid his fees. He claimed that the teaching programme was not up to standard.

The university produced evidence to show that the student had failed to present completed work assignments, and had not attended remedial educational opportunities offered to him. The student’s response was that a family member was ill for a few weeks and that he was not able to attend scheduled classes. The university showed bookings made for him with lecturers over weekends, which were times that he had agreed that he could come to extra lectures: he had not attended these.

The mediator met with the parties. He pointed out the number of students in the class, and that the majority of them who had passed the course. This, according to him, demonstrated that the teaching programme was fully up to standard. He also pointed out that the student had not made use of the teaching opportunities offered to him.

This story reminded me of a short course I followed a couple of years ago, a six-week after hours one. As we humans tend to be creatures of habit, I tended to sit in roughly the same spot in the lecture theatre each time: two young students sat in the row in front of me, in a tiered lecture theatre, so I had a good view of their activities during the lectures. They spent the bulk of the time on their mobile phones. This meant that their attention was divided between the lecturer’s voice and their phones. They seldom looked up to see what was on the screen, and they certainly took no notes, even when the lecturer was giving more detail about information in the printed notes we were given. Needless to say, when it came close to the examination at the end of the course, they went into a panic. The lecturer provided an extra two revision classes: these students muttered to us  during breaks that they did not understand the work because the lecturer had spoken to fast and had not given adequate explanations, and that the notes were not clear enough.

I refrained from pointing out the painful truth to them as I did not see the point in entering into an unpleasant interaction – people hate to be told that they are responsible for their own misery.

People, a lecturer can’t “transplant” facts into your head. You are the only one who can learn. Tough as it is, you have to accept that if you want to learn, you have to focus, pay attention, do homework, do additional research around the topic, discuss the learning material in a study group, write out summaries of your own, draw mind maps, and teach the material to another classmate.

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