Wednesday, May 03, 2006

critical thinking crisis

jian dropped a comment in my last entry:

read this. academia.html

i've mentioned before that i don't do "serious" commentaries like the one in the link above. i'm much too serious already, which is why i like talking crap and being stupid on my blog. don't care too much about the consequences come campaign week. after all, to quote *certain* bloggers out there, it's my blog and i can do whatever i want with it.

but i just have to say something about the article at the link jian directed me to.

some of you might know that i'm currently running for vice pres of the students' representative council (src) in imu. should i get voted into office, i'll be handling the academic side of things. that means academic meetings with the big shots up there about the curriculum, examinations, lectures, learning tools, etc. basically i'll be the voice of the students when it comes to academic affairs.

one issue that kept popping up during my 2-week apprenticeship, during which i had chats with lecturers about academic matters, was the lack of initiative students have towards learning nowadays.

imu is very proud of its structured independent learning (sil) system. everyone is expected to take charge of his or her learning experience. that means 2 hours of lectures a day, tonnes of private study time, and a whole host of other learning tools that will only be helpful if we actually use them.

the problem is that students still expect to be spoonfed. we want more lecturer-assisted lab sessions, more clinical skills sessions, guided medical museum tours, tutorials, and so on. we want all these to be included into our timetables so that we have specifically allocated time to do it all. we want to be told what to do, when to do it and how it should be done.

as i have mentioned, imu is very proud of its sil system, which is why everything in the previous paragraph is not done in the university. what students are expected to do is request for more lecturer-assisted lab sessions, make appointments with lecturers for additional clinical skills practice lessons, arrange for guided tours with seniors and bring up questions to lecturers or to the batch representative so that the lecturers have something to discuss with the cohort during the currently ineffective q&a sessions...all at their own initiative.

however, more often than not, students, myself included, find ourselves with no questions to ask and no real reasons to independently schedule additional lessons with our lecturers simply because we take everything at face value.

i myself am guilty of absorbing lectures like a sponge rather than adopting the "socratic questioning" method mentioned in the blog post above. most of the time i accept everything i read without question. after all, the books are written by doctors with years of experience. my notes are arranged by content experts. if there are no discrepancies between the books and my notes, there is no reason for me to ask any questions, no?

rarely do i think about alternative views; mainly because i don't know enough about the topic to even start questioning it, but also because all i really care about is passing my exams.

yes, in the corner of my mind, i want to make my learning experience interesting. i do want to think of challenging questions to ask my lecturers. they are open to questions and very much unlike the teachers i had prior to college, but, like my college tutors, their knowledge and eagerness to discuss issues outside the curriculum, is left largely untapped.

it frustrates me that i don't know how to be a critical thinker.

of course, that is a contradiction in itself because in actual fact critical thinking cannot be "taught" per se. there shouldn't be manuals and self-help books to tell us how to be creative and critical. it should be an ongoing training process, one that should eventually mould individuals that get better at critical thinking as the years go by.

so what's going on here? are "they" to blame? is there something wrong with "the system"? who exactly are "they" and what is "the system"? do our parents have something to do with this? or are humans naturally born to sit back and take in info without question? the last one certainly explains why there is only a minority of people in this world who bother to think in angles that don't even cross the mind of the average person.

i don't know. i'm not even sure if i can blame anyone for my lack of interest in asking the important questions or in challenging my lecturers. maybe i can blame television and would certainly make me feel better if i could point fingers at something inanimate with no feelings. or is it really just my fault?

and, most importantly, as someone who is approaching the age of it too late for me to start getting used to thinking critically?

it's definitely a crisis we're facing here.

lishun at 3:57 PM