If you have been in education long enough I guarantee you have heard this phrase:

But I have to teach that way – I need to prepare them for college.

It’s a sentence we’re heard uttered middle through high school, about all types of teaching: lecturing, high stakes exams, an emphasis on memorizing facts.

In some respects it’s true. We probably should expose students at some point in their high school career to lecture/notes style classes. YET (and this is a big yet) that doesn’t mean that every class should be a lecture when we know that’s not best for student learning.

In fact, we might do well to focus less on mirroring the HOW of college instruction and more on the WHAT is being taught in higher education. When college professors about what preparation students lack when they enter higher education, they rarely say the ability to quickly copy notes. Instead they highlight competencies like reasoning, problem solving, and disciplinary thinking.

Here’s how College Knowledge guru David Conley puts it:

Because college is truly different from high school, college readiness is fundamentally different than high school competence Detailed analyses of college courses reveal that although a college course may have the same name as a high school course, college instructors pace their courses more rapidly, emphasize different aspects of material taught, and have very different goals for their courses than do high school instructors (Conley et al , 2006c). Students fresh out of high school may think a college course is very much like a similarly named high school class taken previously only to find out that expectations are fundamentally different The college instructor is more likely to emphasize a series of key thinking skills that students, for the most part, do not develop extensively in high school They expect students to make inferences, interpret results, analyze conflicting explanations of phenomena, support arguments with evidence, solve complex problems that have no obvious answer, reach conclusions, offer explanations, conduct research, engage in the give-and-take of ideas, and generally think deeply about what they are being taught (National Research Council, 2002).

So when you think college prep, think less having students practice writing their answers in little blue books and more having students practice thinking like disciplinarians.