Part of our mission here at The Learning Code is to help you develop habits of strategic deep learning. We focus our efforts on learners who want to complete a college degree in the United States. We do so by sharing with you a set of research-based learning principles designed to help you navigate your college experience. We also present you with a collection of effective learning practices leveraged by the college students that we work with on a daily basis. Further, we capture parts of their story that we hope will inspire you. Of course, we work hard to make sure that the principles that we share with you are universal and apply to anyone who has an interest in learning anything. But, the US higher education system is extremely complex and poses a seemingly endless sequence of unique challenges to each individual student. In this post, we discuss some of the shortcomings of the US college system and introduce our main goals for The Learning Code.
One less-than-optimal feature of the US higher education system is the fact that many college teachers are amateur educators. Another way to say this is that the main requirements in the hiring process for a full-time, tenure-track position as a college professor focus on academic credentials and content expertise. In almost all cases, college professors are extremely well-educated and hard-working content experts. Most have impressive resumes and know a lot about the subjects they teach.
But, at it’s heart, the practice of teaching is not about content. It is about students. In my own education, I had way too many college professors who demonstrated a painful lack of empathy towards my learning needs. Many of my college instructors designed learning environments that actually got in the way of my learning.
Let me be quite clear. I am not making a general statement about all college professors. I can think of the faces and names of a collection of my college instructors who were expert teachers and took pride in their ability to help me learn. But, in the tens of college classes that I completed while earning three degrees (B.S., M.A., Ph.D.), these dedicated educators seemed to be the exception rather than the standard.
I do not blame any of my college professors for their lack of teaching prowess and its effects on my learning. As far as I could tell, these people were doing their best to build a career that they loved. But, they were part of a larger system that de-incentivizes a focus on good teaching. This same system places substantial pressure on college professors to publish and bring grant funding into the university coffers. This is because state and national governments in the the US routinely underfund higher education.
In that way, the fact that many of my college teachers could have done a lot more for their students was result of non-student-centered policies across the entire system. Indeed, when it comes to designing student-centered learning environments, the US higher education system has a lot to learn. For evidence of that, you’re welcome to sample any of the following resources:
- The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantages Students by Anthony Abraham Jack (and a YouTube talk by Jack)
- Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream by Sara Goldrick-Rab (and a YouTube talk by Goldrick-Rab)
- The College Dropout Scandal by David Kirp (and a YouTube talk by Kirp)
- Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost by Caitlin Zaloom (and a YouTube talk by Zaloom)
- The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us by Paul Tough (and a YouTube talk by Tough)
- Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality by Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Laura T. Hamilton (and a YouTube talk by Armstrong)
These authors provide a clear-eyed view of many of the systemic challenges that students face in US colleges and universities.
I am of the opinion that at a fundamental level, the core purpose of a college or university is to empower you to become a professional learner. We’ll talk more about what that means in future posts. But, the fact that many colleges do not live up to this responsibility is a travesty.
This brings me back to our goals here at The Learning Code.
In light of the challenges mentioned above, we refuse to wait for colleges to reform in order to give you the help you need. Instead, we want to do for your what your college should be doing. We want to help you figure out how to get successfully earn your degree and set yourself up for your future. With this in mind, our work at The Learning Code concentrates on six central themes. Specifically, we want to help you:
- Build your learning team with effective help-seeking practices.
- Develop healthy learning habits that support long-term growth.
- Create research-based learning routines that accelerate your learning.
- Develop your professional vision statement based on your most cherished values.
- Maximize the value you create from your college experience.
- Empower you to advocate for system transformation for the next generations.
We believe that it takes a village to raise a college graduate. We want to be part of your village. We want to remind you that you are powerful, intelligent, capable, and that you can learn anything. We want to help you navigate your institution, make the most of your college degree, and create a foundation for building a career that you love. Always remember that you can do this and we are here to help!