Who Knows How to Use a Screw Driver?

A not so long time ago.

In a small classroom somewhere near us.

Brandon : How many of you know how to use a screwdriver?

Students thinking: (Refer to the image that follows)

Without peeling it, poke 2 holes into the onion using your screwdriver -- one on the left, and one on the right.

After about 3 people in a class of 30, raised their hands, Brandon realized the enormity of the task at hand. He also found out the answer to the question – How many engineers does it take to use a screwdriver? (You would not be incorrect if you said 10%.)


Live scenes of Brandon from his class (not!)

Our group (We had the Best Group Ever!!) acknowledges the limitations of the banking form of education. Simply trying to transfer our knowledge unto students is an outdated method of instruction.


Teachers as Depositors

The banking form of education assumes instructors and teachers as being the single source of all information. We would like to disagree. We understand that students bring their own experiences and viewpoints to the classroom, and they can also impart valuable information to both their teachers and their peers.

Me when I started teaching

However, at the same time, we realize that teaching is not a “one-way street” (Quoting Poets of the Fall). Learning to think critically requires simultaneous participation of teachers as well as students. One can obviously argue that current incentive structures hinders critical thought. A system  with primary focus on grades is detrimental to critical thinking. Students essentially minimize thought in an effort to maximize grades.


The drawbacks of the prevalent incentive structures

In an effort to wean students away from existing methods of learning, we should focus on incremental learning, like in cooking, where you reuse fundamental skills over and over, occasionally adding trying a new method or step to create something new.

Critical Pedagogy is like cooking

Additionally, forming relationships leads to engagement in the learning process by the students. Educators and students can establish mutual teaching and learning relationships. Active listening as well as active silence are necessary to establish a successful learning environment.

Doing things differently

Finally, we as educators, must impress upon students that education is an ongoing pursuit for democracy, freedom, equity, deep critical thinking, and diversity. We should promote ways to overcome barriers that hold some students back from developing their deep potential.


Balancing Lives



Brandon: http://rockingthescience.net/GRAD_5114/

Ethan – http://ethanlarsen.net/gedi/

Jyotsana : https://jyots21.wordpress.com/category/gedivt-3/

Miguel Andres (https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/maguerra/)

Wejdan: https://blogs.lt.vt.edu/wejdangrad5114/


Source of Gif and Images in the order they appear:

  1. Source: http://www.viralnova.com/onion-phone-charger/
  2. Source: https://giphy.com/gifs/kanye-west-make-it-rain-mCId3zHmvi2JO
  3. Source: http://www.intoon.com/cartoons.cfm/id/14461
  4. Source: Unknown
  5. Source: Unknown
  6. http://www.who.int/features/2017/health-equity/en/
  7. Source: https://imgur.com/gallery/nISdv
  8. Source: http://rebloggy.com/post/writing-books-poetry-poem-reading-literature-dead-poets-society-poems-poets-nati/81999367107
  9. Source: https://giphy.com/gifs/soulpancake-teachers-students-kid-president-d42bbeRtFSSru



25 thoughts on “Who Knows How to Use a Screw Driver?”

  1. It’s astonishing to know that only 3 out of 30 students know how to use a screwdriver. But when I think about it, isn’t it what the engineering school’s syllabi do to us? I heard someone claimed that they need to relearn everything after they find a job. We keep dumping the knowledge to our students’ brain just like teaching a soldier how to kill a dragon. Where can we find the dragon for that soldier to kill?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have heard the same complaint over and over as well. A lot of the major companies hire students and put them in a rotational program to “experience the company” but the reality is they are re-educating where they feel the students have missed in their actual education. Where is the disconnect, has education wandered off from what it was, or have the companies developed irrational expectations of what the students come out of their programs with?


  2. Using the idea of cooking for critical pedagogy is brilliant. Everybody needs to eat, and we can practice our cooking skills every now and then. This helps us master the skills quickly, and we can practice lots of innovative cooking ways/ingredients. In higher education, we also need to put things we learn into practice and try to deal with real issues. Depositing knowledge into students’ brain without linking them to their life experience will not equip them what they need to excel in their later career and best tap their potential. Just like the example in the post, we need to teach engineering student how to use these daily-life tools/equipment, like a screw driver, and their connection with the existing knowledge in the textbooks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for this post! I think the section on Teachers as Depositors raises a good point – teaching and learning are both bi-directional, and we as teachers have to keep that in mind and be open to the opportunity to learn more from our students. I also like your point of the importance of “active silence”. That’s hard for many people to embrace, but crucial in my opinion. And, for the reasons previously mentioned, I really love the analogy of cooking to critical pedagogy.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I appreciate your emphasis on the mutual relationship between teachers and learners for developing and engaging in critical thinking. I think you are striking on an important point when you mention that educators have a responsibility to pass on the values of “democracy, freedom, equity, deep critical thinking, and diversity.” I am an advocate for education because I believe that education is key to a free and thinking society. I would argue that we tend to shift our focus and way of viewing the world from the “ME” to the “WE” as we progress on our academic journeys. To get to these desired end-results, though, I agree that we must help our students get past the obsession with grades and foster an appreciation for the process of learning where knowledge is the desirable end result, not necessarily the A, B, or C final grade.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Greatly enjoyed reading your post! Love the illustrations too. I think there is a big gap between what the students are generally taught to what the real world demands. A student may be able to ace all the exams but may not be successful in their later career when it comes to solving real world problems. Hence, connecting theory to practice is something that we really need to address in our pedagogies.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree that “forming relationships leads to engagement in the learning process by the students”. Critical pedagogy is an interactive process where both, the teacher and student, can learn. I also like the analogy of incremental learning with cooking. That totally makes sense to me. That’s the way how we can move away from the traditional education approach. Each time, we can add something new to the basics.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really enjoyed your post! It was great!! You bring up so many great points in this post. I would be curious to hear your ideas on how these ideas could be implemented in various educational settings, especially pertaining to your last point of doing things differently.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for the funny pictures! The last one is my favorite, our group also talked about equity, and the difference between equality and equity. Similar to your picture, we also found a picture describing equality and equity: all riding the same bicycles is actually equality, and riding all different bicycles according to the height of each person was equity.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your cooking analogy is brilliant and worthy of further development by us all as teachers. I think, like cooking, we need to anticipate the next best ‘thing’ to do.

    Here’s a sampling of the questions that usually run around in my mind when I’m trying to make a plan for what comes next in teaching/learning.
    How can we connect students’ experiences to the ‘next thing’ they need to learn?
    How do we figure out what that next thing is (appropriate for each student – not necessarily for an entire class)?
    How does the ‘next thing’ relate to the thing before and after it .. and what about the things all around those things (think a sphere with 100s of points all around it that are interconnected)?
    How do the students’ experiences influence how they perceive what is to be learned and how do their existing skills play into what is learned?
    How do we know what to do, and what to change in order to get the best outcome? Shall we measure our success by how well learning looks or how well it tastes?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I like the cooking metaphor for critical pedagogy. I’ve heard many times that it is better to learn techniques to improve your cooking, rather than learning recipes. Once you learn the technique you can apply it to different foods rather than looking up a new recipe for every time you try to cook something. Also cooking is often just experimentation, and learning from experience. Teaching students the skills to think critically, and giving them a chance to experiment is very important.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I agree with you that we should focus on incremental learning, where we use fundamental knowledge again and again to create new things. I am curious about how to make it happen. Do you mean that teachers should assign more homework or use other methods? My personal experience being a student is that we don’t get many changes to apply the knowledge they learn from the classroom in real life.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Amazing post, liked the combination of images and short text. The “interview” was eye catching for me. I personally don’t like multiple choice exams, everytime I had one it was a strugle. I guess it could work some times, but what is wrong with leaving open answers? sad if the answer is: “more grading to do”, which I have actually heard…and yes to incremental learning


  13. Very interesting and inspiring post! Thanks for sharing!! I agree with you that the mutual interaction is key for successful teaching and learning for teachers and students.


  14. Who knew there were so many appropriate gifs for critical pedagogy?! I especially loved the remark “Students essentially minimize thought in an effort to maximize grades”. This is so true, and such a bummer. I think it also applies to the work world, as we work under managers and supervisors, we strive to complete tasks within certain constraints. We’d perform so much better in school, work, and life if we were encouraged to fully use our minds.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I really appreciate your point about both teachers and students need to participate in order to learn critically. Many professors seem to go through the motions and not try to be an active participant in their own teachings, which makes it difficult for them to engage their students.


  16. I always grapple with the notion that we “must impress upon students that education is an ongoing pursuit for democracy, freedom, equity, deep critical thinking, and diversity.” These terms are broad, and may potentially have the inverse effect we intend, given some populations of our student body are a bit resistant to these terms or have narrower interpretations (i.e., their own notion of freedom relates to freedom of “choice” rather than freedom of everyone around them). Thus, the task on us to think through what those terms mean to us, as teachers, then reflect on the process we went through to arrive at those definitions, then seek to foster such a process for our students. It may be completely different than our own, but we should explore activities that facilitate student investment and reflection. This will help them to think more clearly about what the screwdriver is, and how they can use it for their own purposes, whatever they may be.


  17. The teaching as cooking analogy is great. Building upon skills and applying them to new challenges is so important. In the field of Artificial Intelligence a high school student just broke ground in teaching an artificial neural network to apply lessons from one training to another skill. In this case it was taught how to apply different limb movements to actions like crawling and walking and then used that information on its own to better navigate mazes. See link here: https://www.wired.com/story/meet-the-high-schooler-shaking-up-artificial-intelligence/

    The key here is that there is always more than one way to do something. A tool can be designed to be used a certain way, but there very well may be better, different ways to utilized in different scenarios.


  18. I enjoyed the post, the illustrations went very well with what you’re trying to deliver. I particularly liked the last one (balancing lives) since, as a student, I’ve seen students excel and reach higher potential through the opportunities they were given as ‘smarter’ students. Yet ‘less proficient’ students seemed to develop on a much smaller scale (if they did at all)- the focus of educators is not necessarily a balanced one.


  19. Just a personal antidote here. My son graduated with an MBA and did very well in the program – but so do many MBAs. He really got a very good job because his life was balanced – because he knew how to use a screwdriver. He not only earned an MBA and a couple of other degrees, but he also worked construction, milked goats and built fence. Connecting learning with life experience, with ways that students can connect to ways in which perhaps they are already thinking critically, could help them make connections in the classroom and with class work.


  20. I love the part about active silence. Silence is often understood to be a negative presence in the classroom but I think there is value in a silence when it is effective and productive. Sometimes, silence is needed for students to learn and we can use this in our classrooms as well. Awesome point!


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