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Smith argues complex thinking should come first

Bringing home her experience with the Great Books Program, Yvonne Smith, professor of management, delivers a faculty lecture titled “What’s Done is Donne: A Business Professor and Student Encounter a Great Books Program.” The aim of the program is to encourage complex thinking and to go beyond the superficialities of the book./photo by Rafael Anguiano

Bringing home her experience with the Great Books Program, Yvonne Smith, professor of management, delivers a faculty lecture titled “What’s Done is Donne: A Business Professor and Student Encounter a Great Books Program.” The aim of the program is to encourage complex thinking and to go beyond the superficialities of the book./photo by Rafael Anguiano

Carly Hill
News Editor

Yvonne Smith expressed her experiences with an honors program centered on a theory of classic novel exploration in her lecture at noon on Monday in the President’s Dining Room.

Smith began by showing a popular YouTube video, “Shift Happens,” that highlights the changes internationally, and the vastness of the world outside the United States.

“The point is, the world is getting more complex,” Smith said.

With the continuing advancement of the world, teaching becomes increasingly difficult, especially if students are supposed to learn more than just facts.

“In the dark hours of the night, I wonder if what I’m doing is really working,” Smith said.

Smith, who received her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern and her master’s and doctorate degrees from Texas Tech, explained how the Great Books Program will help mold students into lifelong learners that can succeed.

“If we want a consistent kind of person coming out of the university, we have to be consistent,” Smith said. “How can we truly teach our students unless we are willing to demonstrate it ourselves?”

The Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., offers students the opportunity to fulfill general education requirements through a program that incorporates classic novels of such writers as Karl Marx to teach students critical thinking.

Students that are enrolled in the program, which runs from the time they are freshman to graduation, read as much as two books a week and discuss them in two three-and-a-half hour classes a week in a group of 20 classmates, Smith said.

The classes are not centered around explaining the books, but rather to have the students think, discuss, hypothesize and come to their own conclusions on the novels.

Smith, who worked at the institute, explored the difficulties in teaching students how to think, rather than solely giving them the information.

“Tutors are not knowledge professors, they are guides,” Smith said.

She explains how this method, of asking questions instead of relaying facts, helped students to challenge one another.

“We’re trying to accomplish complex thinking, not knowledge,” Smith said.

During the lecture, faculty and staff in attendance seemed confused with this idea, and asked many questions and posed many concerns with the teaching technique.

When asked how she was changed, Smith said, “I learned to give up control, because students must take control.”

However, Smith holds that this program has a positive impact, and maintains a 98 percent retention rate for the students enrolled. Students were selected out of one in every seven that applied.

Although confusion appeared on the faces of the faculty, the ending opinion seemed positive.

“It’s a nice forum, especially in this time when everything is online,” said Erma Cross, program and admissions specialist.

“I think it was interesting, I have never been presented with that stuff,” Erisa Nishizawa, sophomore psychology major, said.

Carly Hill can be reached at carly.hill@laverne.edu.

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