Last week Baroness Greenfield came to give a seminar at Heriot-Watt Uni where I work. She is Chancellor here, so she had to come some time. (It occurrs to me, if I can' t be a Lego Professor, I might like to be a Baroness. She's a professor and
a baroness, the clever lady).
She talked eloquently on the neuroscience of consciousness (http://www.macs.hw.ac.uk/wiki/index.php/Lecture
), tackling the big questions with both serious thought and panache. To follow up on that, you might want to consult her book: (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Private-Brain-Penguin-Press-Science/dp/0141007206/ref=sr_1_1/202-5490480-7385425?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1174337354&sr=8-1
But an aside of her's struck me as rather interesting. It was about a tutorial she took at Oxford on neuroscience for medicine. She had two undergraduate students who were learning about vision and hearing and she raised the fascinating question of why it feels very different to hear than it does to see, even though the input to the brain from these senses can be indistinguishable as brain events. These two students were getting individual attention from one of the world's foremost neuroscientists, who was discussing the mysteries of the conscious mind. So what do you think the students asked? What would you
have asked? I am sorry to say that the students chose to ask "Is this on the syllabus for the exam?". Sadly, the answer was "no".
Many teachers will be familiar with this situation. (See also the lecturer's parable of Jesus and his student disciples http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/main.jhtml?xml=/education/2006/07/29/ed_col_29_July.xml
) Some students expect us to spit out little owl pellets of knowledge at them so they can shovel them up and spit them back at us at an exam . What is it that we do to students that makes them become exam monkeys?(Sorry for the unpleasant and mixed analogies!). How can change everyone's expectations so students can take pleasure in learning for the sheer interest of it? I wish I knew.
Labels: shallow learning