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The Rollins Idea Explained



For the past four years at Rollins we have concentrated our attention on what we like to regard as improvements in teaching methods....

The lecture system seemed to me to be a failure because under it students are regarded as so many passive objects into which a professor pours information for an hour two or three times a week and then asks for certain amounts of it back in periodical examinations. Neither the professor nor the student needs to be more than half awake for the process to go on--the professor may regard it as a necessary evil in the way of his pet occupation of research or writing; the student feels that if he fills his seat and makes some show of taking notes he is doing his part.

Almost as completely a failure, it seemed to me, had been the recitation system under which the teacher acts as inquisitor and marks or grades the student on his ability to answer occasional questions on material he has been assigned to study himself. The student needs the teacher's help, not when he has learned or failed to learn his assignment, but during the process of learning. Under the recitation system as practiced in most colleges the classroom becomes a sort of criminal court where the teacher--as judge, prosecutor, and detective--attempts to find out, often unsuccessfully, whether or not the student has mastered his lesson, and the student is mainly interested in creating a good impression, by bluffing or otherwise.

At Rollins we have established the two-hour conference plan. Both morning and afternoon are divided into two two-hour periods. In the forenoon the two periods are devoted to those subjects in which the student primarily works with his mind. As far as possible the first period of the afternoon is taken up with laboratory or field work and the last period with athletics, outdoor work, and recreation. The student's evenings are free, except when a lecture, a play, a debate, or some similar activity takes place...

To make successful a system which depends so much upon personal contact and the individual guidance of young minds who must be shown the inspiring possibilities in gathering knowledge, the chief requisite seemed to me to be teachers who not only were qualified to teach but loved to teach. We therefore sought inspiring teachers wherever we could find them, disregarding the modern fetish for research and weighing not only the ordinary and official recommendations as to a man's teaching ability but the opinions of his former students... In other words, he was not considered unless he had that divine gift for guiding and encouraging others which is the essence of good teaching. Hamilton Holt in The Nation.

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