On Thursday, March 22nd, the Benjamin Cluff Jr. Lecture was held in the Gordon B. Hinckley Alumni Center. The Annual Cluff Lecture is in honor of Benjamin Cluff Jr., who was the first president of Brigham Young University. While serving as assistant president of Brigham Young Academy, Benjamin increased the length of classes and the options for fields of study, introduced new strategies for teaching, brought noted scholars to speak and instruct, and built the academic capacity of the academy. Benjamin Cluff Jr. was devoted to Brigham Young Academy (and later BYU) and to God. In order to follow Benjamin Cluff’s tradition of bringing scholars to the University, annual lectures are held where scholars are asked to come and speak.
This year, Clayton M. Christensen, Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School was asked to speak. His topic was “Theories of Disruption in Education.” Christensen spoke about how great the gospel’s influence on our cognitive ability can be. He also talked about about how K-12 schools are struggling to improve and about how schools in higher education are competing. As a future educator, I want to be able to improve the condition of schools, even if it is just one class at a time. This sounded like an exciting challenge for me, personally. The competition happening in higher education is happening through building facilities, hiring more prestigious faculty, and bulking up programs within the university. I did not realize that this was even happening.
Next, Christensen spoke about when universities go to hire professors. He said many professors produce good research and work hard, but some don’t look for what is in their heart and their drive to motivate their students to become great people. This is a very important characteristic of an educator. In my short time at BYU, I have noticed that the professors really do care about each and every student, even if they are teaching a large class in a lecture hall. I also had experience in one of my classes last semester where the professor was a great example and really did motivate me to become a better person.
Christensen spoke about BYU-Idaho’s program where each student is both a teacher and a learner. As one student learns the material, they teach it to other students and the process continues. This has been the key to my success in several of my classes at BYU. I have studied in groups, or even just with one friend, and as one person understands the material, they teach it to everyone else and pretty soon, the material is understood by everyone. It’s been a great way to study. He continues on to explain that, in a class, the professor’s language may or may not be understood by the student, so when other students can teach and use language that is understood by other students, it helps a great deal. He spoke about how we come to college not only to learn, but to have different experiences on campus that help us to grow. I have definitely learned a lot, not only from my classes, but in other, non-academic settings at BYU.
Christensen encouraged faculty to mold the lives of their students. He talked about his opportunity to meet with BYU Alumni who shared the positive experiences that they had at BYU. In just about every case Christensen saw a link from their positive experience to a faculty member whom they said had changed their life. He spoke about how different students have different sets of intelligence and different patterns of learning. Once, Christensen looked out at a class and noted that there was just no way that he could teach all of them in their specific learning pattern. He said that the teacher of any class needs the ability to reformulate the material to fit the student’s brains. He said, “The teacher always learns more than the students.” He concluded by stating that as a teacher, you attempt to create great, well-educated people. As an elementary school teacher, you also have the opportunity to shape lives and help mold students with good habits that will effect the rest of your student’s lives. I really enjoyed Brother Christensen’s message and his thoughts on education. I look forward to attending future Cluff lectures.
If you attended the Cluff Lecture last month, did a certain part of Christensen’s lecture stand out to you? What did you learn?