An MIT School of Education . . . and More
I read with interest the idea for a School of Education at MIT. This needs to be considered seriously, but not just as a new school of the study of pedagogy, but in the spirit of mens et manus, a hands-on real-time try and study as it goes: In other words, educational anthropologists and psychologists study how students learn and teachers teach in regular curriculum, while also doing the same for alternative education programs at MIT (e.g., Concourse, ESG, Terrascope, TBDs and the clubs [e.g., FSAE, EV, ORCA, Solar Car, Theatre, TBDs…]). AND to truly add the MIT spirit of innovation and creation of disruptive technology development, the alternative education programs should have complete control to offer GIR subjects, including HASS classes, where content review boards of the traditional schools at MIT (So__) to provide peer review to the course syllabi and content; and in the end, our colleges TRUST each other to do the right thing and use the peer review to evolve the content and then implement the result. There will be, of course, disagreements about content and delivery, but no So__ can veto a course the new School proposes to teach as a GIR alternative, and that is a good thing!
Potential disagreement in fact means the experiment SHOULD be run because there could be some exciting positive results. The worst case would be the students do not get all the stuff regular curriculum classes hope to teach, but the number of undergraduates "affected" will be only at most 10% of the class. The potential upside is just too big; for example the Socratic and hands-on style used by our alternate education programs which was barely tolerated (with great effort) for many years; but the teaching style (interactive hands on, come to class prepared) is now becoming mainstream.
And let’s call the new School the "School of Learning and Research" (SOLAR) as investigating something about which you are passionate is a key catalyst to learning.
And true to the spirit of the many new cross-disciplinary divisions at MIT, it should be easy for educators from across the Institute to move in and out of SOLAR to try new things with ease and then bring the results back to mainstream. Perhaps the new School can also have an updated motto: Geeks et Geekus!
Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering