Calvin Johnson thinks educators can never be good liars when it comes to the fruits of their labors.
Johnson – recently named interim chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff – drove that point home Thursday as he wrapped up UAPB’s 19th annual Mary E. Benjamin Conference on Educational Access at UAPB.
“Don’t tell fish stories where the people know you,” he said, borrowing from author Mark Twain. “But particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.”
Johnson said the results of teachers’ efforts speak for themselves as evidenced by successes – and failures – of their former pupils.
“The minds we shape today will become the leaders of tomorrow,” the former state legislator said in discussing the conference topic of problem-based learning. “Everything and everyone in our society starts with a teacher or two. We never know the impact of teachers on the lives of their students.
“Teachers give hope,” said Johnson, retired dean of UAPB’s School of Education.
Johnson said that as the world changes, some teaching techniques must be altered and others created to satisfy new learning demands.
“Problem-based learning helps students to find connections,” he said in extolling the concept. “It will help students to become direct learners. We don’t want to ignore the knowledge our students bring into a classroom.”
Problem-based learning is defined as both a teaching method and curriculum approach. It consists of carefully-designed problems that challenge students to use problem-solving techniques, self-directed learning strategies, team participation skills, and disciplinary knowledge.
In order to better recognize and build on individual and collective students’ reasoning and learning skills, teachers can no longer rely solely on “one-size-fits-all” lectures, Johnson said.
Johnson believes problem-based learning can be a pivotal tool at all levels in maintaining current and obtaining additional state and federal education funding. He said any teaching measure that nets positive results can help overcome generally shrinking state and national appropriations.
He said that retiring UAPB Chancellor Lawrence A. Davis Jr. has influenced his thinking on education’s ever-changing horizon, and revealed that he has often reflected on an old Davis principle – “Nothing we did yesterday is good enough for tomorrow.”
“We still have work to do,” Johnson told the conference attendees. “We’ve got to do better and produce better students.
“I challenge you to consider problem-based learning and put it in your classroom,” he said. “Convince others that this is the way to go and get things done for our students.”
He told the educators they should consider problem-based learning as a teaching opportunity they don’t want to miss.
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do,” he said in again relating wisdom from Twain. “So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
“Explore. Dream. Discover.”