Fundació Jaume BofillUniversitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC)

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We are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Debats d’Educació by giving the educational community the opportunity to air its views

Muriel Casals
Muriel Casals
President of Òmnium Cultural from 2010 to 2015

Degree in Economics from the University of Barcelona and Professor of Economics and Economic History at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. He was a member of the board of the Barcelona Athenaeum and Jaume Bofill Foundation Board from 2002 to 2010 and vice activities from 2005 to 2007. Since 2008 he was a member of the national board of Omnium Cultural and was president two years later.

The three things I’ve learned

Students must trace their own mental pathway, discover the steps of an explanation. We need to know how to wait and observe, not to intervene straight away.
1

Patience; not hurrying

In a class, or even more so a consultation in an office, it is important not to hurry the explanation of a subject. Teachers often rush through their reasoning because they know where they are headed, and are eager to reach the conclusion; it is important, though, that students progressively trace their own mental pathways, discovering the steps of an explanation. It is even good to know how to wait rather than intervening when their reasoning strays off the pathway.

Students may find their own way back, and if not that is the point at which they will need help. And so: familiarise ourselves with waiting and observing.

The problem lies in knowing how to manage time, which is typically in short supply.

And so we must address the issue of curriculums overloaded with unnecessary information.

2

Humility; we teachers do not know everything

My experience teaching Economics at university shows that there are often questions, statements or reflections made by students which prompt you to discover something you did not know. A different perspective on a theoretical approach, a specific contribution based on an experience which has been lived or observed; listening with attention and respect, even if the beginning of the contribution suggests that it will contain nothing worthwhile, can lead to interesting surprises.  

In such cases it is important not to allow the conversation to become too superficial; the arguments need to be shepherded back to the subject being studied in the class in question.

And here we again face the problem of curriculums based more on vanity than the service of knowledge. More knowledge is not the same as better knowledge.

3

Lectures are useful

Contact in small groups undoubtedly helps students to progress. But that does not mean that explanations delivered as lectures to large groups should be abandoned. For the initial exposition of a theme, the presentation of the contributions made by key authors, the illustration of statistical or other data, lecture-based teaching to a large audience makes every sense.

In some cases a recording of a major author may be available, which helps foster the sense of familiarity with the individual, stimulating the desire to study his or her writings. Even in the case of a regular lecturer, though, I do not believe that this type of teaching should be abandoned. The effect will undoubtedly be greater if combined with tutorials.

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