Wesch begins his article by stating “Students are struggling to find meaning and significance in their education.” Gauged by involvement and engagement. Specifically, Wesch’s students complained about buying textbooks they never open, and feeling apathetic about assigned readings. These are certainly sentiments that are commonly expressed by students in higher education, I have often felt this way myself.
Wesch refers to this disconnect between students and educators as a “crisis of significance”. The “significance problem” addresses the feeling of displacement students face in the classroom. Students are unsure of their “significance” or “purpose” in the grand narrative of their discipline. Today’s education system places emphasis on the memorization of facts and class ranking. It is easy to see why students would lose site of where they fit in the “big picture”, and stay motivated on a personal level, when they are often treated like cogs in a machine.
Successful classes I have taken encourage me to find an aspect of the class that I connect with and expand on that aspect. I personally felt no ownership or attachment to the material I was taught in the 400 person gen-ed classes that were compulsory in undergrad. This was partially due to the subject matter, but also had a lot to do with the general feeling that I was nothing more than a number…a small fish in a very big school. I could completely disappear and the major professor would have no idea. I realize self-motivation on the level of higher education is largely the responsibility of the student. However, the teacher should make an effort to connect with the pupil on an individual basis, and make them think about what they originally wanted to gain from higher ed.
Unlike the author, I believe there is still a place for the lecture hall in higher education. In undergrad and graduate courses, I never felt that I couldn’t question what was being taught to me by this “higher authority” and demand further clarification. “Anti-teaching” seems like an aggressive approach to me, as myself and many students like me benefitted greatly from the traditional educational setting. While some students would benefit from a more intimate experience in a smaller classroom setting, this is not a reality for most in larger land-grant universities and technological schools. I don’t think one form of education is better than the other, but a diversity of approaches would benefit the diversity of learning styles represented by students today.