Laurie Taylor column

November 2, 2001

" I want all universities to put roots down in schools, so that the presence of someone from higher education becomes run-of-the-mill " - Education secretary Estelle Morris, THES , October 26

Well, that brings us nearly to the end of this lesson but before you all head off for break, I would like to hand over to a man who will be visiting this school a great deal in the future. He is Professor Gordon Lapping from our local university, the University of Poppleton.

Thank you, Mrs Dawkins. You know, I am often asked about the difference between being at school and being at university. In my view, it is quite simple. It all boils down to a difference in cognitive styles.

You see, here at school a great deal of your work is necessarily concerned with factual learning. From time to time, the opportunity arises for interpretation but, in general, the acquisition of knowledge takes precedence.

At university, there is a subtle shift of emphasis. There is still an empirical component in any degree course but much more stress is placed upon analytical reasoning, whether this reasoning takes the inductive form, which is to say the hypotheses are principally engendered by examination of critical data, or whether it is of a more deductive character whereby one's hypotheses are derived from an initial theoretical formulation.

You will also be expected to ask a lot of very serious questions about the epistemological assumptions that inform your eventual analysis. But that, perhaps, is something we can discuss on my next visit.

Thank you very much, Professor Lapping. Most helpful. Ah yes, there goes the bell. Class dismissed. Well, thank you for that, Gordon.

It was a pleasure, Mrs Dawkins. How did it go? One or two members of the class looked a trifle restless.

That is not at all unusual, Gordon. However, one small tip for the future. I do find with this particular class that if you want to get their full attention, it is not a bad idea to begin by asking them to put away their Plasticine.

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