Of the long list of pre-requisites for medical school, Bio 120 was not supposed to be difficult. In fact, it was theoretically the easiest 2 -credit class of them all. But it snapped my DNA in half. And that's because my instructor was William Bradshaw, professor at BYU.
1) If you were a student beginning a course in any field, what would you define as a “success” upon completion of the course?
To think like professionals in that field. To hear a presentation from a person in the field (a seminar talk, for example), and be able to follow most of the arguments and evaluate their validity.
2) Are there elements of an education that every student should possess upon graduation from college?
a) To be able to write well – clear, concise, complete, and interesting.
b) To be able to evaluate the merits of data and arguments so as to make valid judgments. To draw conclusions based on evidence.
c) To have a general interest in a wide variety of subjects, and maintain an interest in them as an educated adult. Be committed to reading.
d) To be able to engage in a meaningful conversation about important ideas.
3) Does practice, practice, practice make perfect in any field?
Practice makes perfect if one is in a field for which he or she is well suited. There are probably some fields of endeavor for whom each of us lacks the neurological wiring, interest, or commitment to be able to succeed.
4) When were you happiest as a student? Explain if you wish.
The day I left a biology classroom session having learned the principle that cells of an embryo are genetically equivalent, but cellular differentiation is due to selective gene expression.
5) When were you most frustrated as a student?
Poor performance on exams when I thought I had prepared well. Recognition that I really didn’t know how to study.
6) Can true learning exist without God’s help?
I don’t know, but if we really are God’s children we must have some genetic endowment – with the potential to learn as He does, perhaps independent of Him. One person can’t learn in behalf of someone else. One can’t learn very much without constructing his/her own set of models and frameworks.
7) What advice would you give a high school student to prepare for the academic challenges of college?
Learn how to read and write. Cultivate broad intellectual interests. Don’t take AP courses as a means to avoid (pass out of) those subject in college. Be prepared for the realization that you’re not as good as you think you are.
8) Are there principles of education that you use in college that you could also use with primary children?
Teachers should provoke people of any age to actively articulate an idea, not just passively accept as true ideas presented by others.
9) What does the ideal learning environment consist of?
It’s not an environment, it’s a process. An active exchange between students and teacher, where following a formative assessment, teachers provide feedback that allows people to identify the holes in their understanding and take the steps to correct them. The experience must be both rigorous and user friendly.
10) How has your wife helped you improve your teaching?
She has helped me in everything because she knows more about me than anyone else. Coming in the room when I was grading exams and saying, “Don’t be so hard on them.” I never paid attention to that.
11) What do students do wrong in their learning?
Study alone. Study silently. Fail to ask questions. Fail to be metacognitive – to think about thinking with the intent to do it better.
12) What do they do right?
The opposite of the items in 11 above.
13) Should every high school graduate aspire for college today? If not, for what reasons might they pursue a different course?
No. Lack of sufficient interest in higher education; unwillingness to pay the price; sufficient interest and aptitude in earning a living in a field that requires some other preparation than college.
14) What do you do to keep learning every day?
Read the newspaper. Read books. Listen to NPR. Associate with informed friends and associates.