Learning by Doing

After a hectic couple of weeks I have noticed that my mind is returning repeatedly to a topic that I had not thought about very much before. I discover that I am interested in the proper balance of theory vs experience in education. My thoughts were sparked by a discussion that I had with a computer science professor here at Utah State, Dr. Greg Jones, and an article I read about the “Learning by Doing” CS Masters degree at Carnegie-Mellon. I have been a CS student so this seemed fairly relavant to my experience. I learned a whole lot through my work that I would not have learned in the classroom. I also know that my understanding of the work I was doing was enhanced by classroom discussions. I had a better understanding of why things were the way they were at work because of what I learned on campus. I thought a program that had no tests or classroom instruction was a little on the extreme side – classroom instruction can add depth to the experience of “Learning by Doing.” In talking with Dr. Jones I found out that the CS department here has talked about the competing goals of training students to be gainfully employed vs training students to further the field of Computer Science. It is my belief that, generally speaking, the focus of technical schools is gainful employment. Undergraduate degrees should have a greater focus on theory, but still be very heavy on practical experience. Graduate school should be able to assume that most of the practicle experience has been gained through undergraduate work and doctoral programs are their own practical experience already. I would not venture to guess how close this fits with any school or the system in general currently, but to my mind this seems to be the ideal balance to be sought. The lower the level of education the higher the focus on experience and practical job-skills. The higher you go the more useful the theory becomes because the job-skills are (hopefully) already in place.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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