July 5, 2018

Preparing Students for a New Learning Economy – from Jose Antonio Bowen

Posted by Laura Guertin

The closing plenary for the 2018 CUR Biennial Conference featured Jose Antonio Bowen, President of Goucher College and author of the Teaching Naked series. I read and blogged about the first book, Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning, back in 2014. Dr. Bowen has since authored a second book in 2017 with C. Edward Watson, Teaching Naked Techniques: A Practical Guide to Designing Better Classes. His first book I highly recommend to faculty, from rookies to more seasoned instructors. Whether it is the first or 20th time you have heard about Bloom’s (1956) taxonomy of educational objectives to Fink’s (2003, 2004, revised/updated 2013) taxonomy of significant learning, Dr. Bowen has produced an engaging text that discusses course design and strategies for use of technology in information delivery, engagement, and assessment. The second book helps faculty with providing better transparency and clearer targets when applying technology to teaching and learning.

I am sharing some of my takeaways from his dynamic presentation, but if you would like to see Dr. Bowen present on his Teaching Naked ideas, this TED Talk is a great place to start:

Some specifics from the CUR Conference:

One of the early quotes Dr. Bowen mentioned and then kept repeating was, “the person [student] that does the work does the learning.” And the new economy is the learning economy – rewards come to those that can learn new things.

The title of “professor” is the wrong title for us. A better title would be “cognitive coach.” We need to have “design nudges” to get students to do the work. Think of it as someone going to the gym and watching someone do push-ups, versus a trainer/fitness coach that shows a person at the gym how to do push-ups, and may do a few with them at first, and stays next to them to support them through their push-ups.

Undergraduate research provides the skills that employers want, that students have learned the “how” (the process of discovery and applying different tools) versus just the “what” of content. We were encouraged to think of education as a toolbox. How do you know when you need a hammer versus a screwdriver to accomplish a task? In education, we unfortunately will focus learning, especially entire courses, on learning just about a hammer, or spend an entire course on saws.

Students need to be able to change their minds. Discovery is a process that allows students to reach a point where they have a new thing to say, and they should say it in their own voice (not sound like us, the mentors). Dr. Bowen stated that learning to change is the most fundamental value of research.

Students need to fail. Failure is a method for learning and in research, and failure is just as important as success.

Reflection matters, whether it be through a cognitive wrapper and/or a reflective portfolio.

Photo with the speaker/author, Dr. Jose Antonio Bowen

The faculty in the room were encouraged to remember these final points. At the end of the day:

  • It is about how much a student learns, not how much a faculty member covers;
  • Our success is when our students have success;
  • We need to produce a voracious self-regulated thinker/learner;
  • And faculty are a different kind of superhero (our academic regalia is our superhero cape/outfit).

For further information, please visit the Teaching Naked website. You can also access Dr. Bowen’s article in AAC&U’s Liberal Education from Spring 2018, titled “Nudges, the Learning Economy, and a New Three Rs: Relationships, Resilience, and Reflection”.

Thank you, Dr. Bowen, for reminding us that new technology means that we need to put greater importance on thinking, student development, engagement, feedback/failure, integration, and design.


*Note that CUR and AGU, in furtherance of their shared goals to build and sustain the global science talent pool, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in 2016. The MOU outlines the organizations’ commitment to promoting undergraduate research opportunities, enhancing diversity in the geosciences, and supporting the geoscience talent pool.