Peanut Butter And Jelly
Some things just go together like peanut butter and jelly, peas and carrots, cookies and milk. Seemingly disconnected (very good) things join together to make a whole greater than the sum of its parts. In higher ed, we are constantly thinking about how to make the academic experience outstanding, about how to connect apparently separate subjects into a multifaceted, cohesive education. After all, we owe it to our students to consider the true purpose of education and respond to the “why” that drives students to invest time and money in postsecondary training.
Regardless of ability level, study habits, or past educational achievement, when you break it down into simple terms, students invest in this for two reasons – to improve or maintain socioeconomic status and to become a better version of themselves.
The practical reasons to pursue postsecondary training are obvious in terms of earning potential and economic opportunities. It affords students the opportunity to attain a stable, rewarding career aligned with job opportunities in sectors thriving locally, regionally and nationally.
Specific competencies and industry-particular knowledge are critical to ensuring that a graduate (at any level) is ready and equipped to join the workforce, especially in areas related to technology and healthcare, where there are no substitutes for operational competence. This requires a detailed and rigorous curriculum with objectives rooted in real world, career-focused understanding. It also requires us to give students opportunities to practice applying their knowledge, not just to memorize and theoretically understand it.
At the same time, peanut butter, alone, isn’t always perfect. It needs a companion to bring out its full flavor and texture. Just as we believe in the importance of a career-focused curriculum, we are equally committed to the importance of skills and qualities of a more general nature – the characteristics that all employers and leaders value regardless of the industry and the discipline. Effective communication, problem solving, critical thinking, argumentation, information literacy…the list goes on. In a world of increasing analysis of college costs and short cuts to degree completion, it’s easy to underestimate the value of a general education class.
A Perfect Union
Today’s students are expected to change jobs as many as 11 times. Specific knowledge will certainly be a prerequisite, but it will only get you so far. In today’s fast paced, competitive, ever changing word, we need to teach our students – of all ages – to adapt and use their ability to think logically and creatively to add context to the specific skills they master. For example, just as a Sonography graduate of Lackawanna College needs to know how to operate an ultrasound machine, they also need the ability to speak with doctors and patients, show compassion and explain medical terms in simple terms.
Our job is to teach our students that detailed, industry-specific knowledge, alone, has limitations. If one cannot also weigh information carefully, craft nuanced arguments and understand how to ask and answer questions, that person will fail.
How do we teach students to be excited about practicing characteristics that have no apparent connection to their major or their current or future employment?
- Make sure to integrate general skills into industry-specific courses
- Explain to students why and how different types of skills are important
- Push students out of their comfort zone when thinking about a particular industry
How do we help students make the MOST of their educational experiences by explaining how they can apply what they learn from one content area to the next? Let’s discuss. Hope starts here.