Making Students Experts, in Something, Anything

By Caroline Cournoyer — November 10, 2010 1 min read
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Kieran Egan, a professor of education at Canada’s Simon Fraser University, proclaims that students who become experts on any given topic will become more effective citizens and better people.

“A central feature of becoming a moral person is to learn to become engaged with something outside the self,” he says in a Washington Post article.

Under Egan’s plan, elementary school students get assigned a specific topic—like dust—to study from every possible angle until they receive their high school diploma. The Post story reports that a couple thousand students around the world, including in the United States, are participating in this teaching plan.

It benefits students, Egan says, because they can learn at their own pace and master a topic. And he believes that studying one specific subject will lead to more global learning. For example, a student who studies dust would receive a history lesson about the Dust Bowl, a science lesson about how the planet originated, and a literature lesson from reading The Grapes of Wrath.

Critics say students will get bored. But Egan assures otherwise:

“No child, apparently, has asked to drop out or change topics, [and] the students seem to be finding it their favorite activity in schools.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.