Saturday, July 18, 2009

Ad Infinitum

What do you think of classes that just go on forever, with no end? What's the point? Perhaps I am biased in this way towards Western Education--that a class should have a curriculum, it should have a beginning and an end, and a schedule. It shouldn't just meet without purpose, without objectives for the meetings or overall.

And I really, truly hate to see classes that just continue forever without the students being able to reach any level in knowledge. As an example, unfortunately, I'm looking at my tajweed class. I was asked to help start it, so I did, with the intention that it would last a few months (i.e., until Ramadan) and in that time period a certain amount of material (specifically tajweed rules) would be covered so the students could come for this time and actually learn something, and feel by the end that they had learned something they could put into practice.

Instead, it's turning out to be another ad infinitum class with no specific material being covered, no timeline, and what seems to be very little benefit. The class has met 5 times only, and I know I'm not the only student who is more than a little bored--you can tell when people stop coming. Having sat in on a few other classes that progress ad infinitum, instead of with any clear objectives up front, especially in the matter of tajweed, I can see that the students are not benefiting from it--at least, any benefit is not reflected in their recitation of the Qur'an.

Now, maybe this is the problem with an open class, with students at various levels. But there are other problems. For example, if the instructor decides to stop teaching new rules because a few students are missing. This robs students who do attend regularly of the opportunity to learn any new rules, in a way, wasting their time. And then, when students return who have missed a class or two, instead of progressing to new rules for the rest of the class, the instructor repeats previous material.

I get the impression from this behavior that the class is never going to end--thus: ad infinitum!

Now, this might work if a student is going to commit to attending the class weekly for years and years--in the meantime reciting with flawed tajweed that will need to be corrected down the road, if by then it hasn't become an ingrained habit. But for most students, I think it's actually not going to work. Especially a student who already knows the basic rules--after being corrected for missing an obscure and advanced rule, being told that this will come "much later" is not encouraging. It means the student will have to sit in a class without advancing for a long time just to learn a few advanced rules, while the instructor caters to the absent and the tardy.

I really think so much time is wasted in this sort of class--I've seen students who have been sitting in such classes after attending weekly for years, and they recite like beginners, making mistakes you would expect from someone who had not taken a tajweed class ever before.

It makes so much more sense to me that a class should have a set of objectives up front, that students are expected to learn. It should also have a timeline, so students can commit and understand that missing a class means missing the material, so the instructor does not feel obligated to repeat the same lecture again and again for any student who might have missed it, or delay new material for absent students.

Am I so wrong?


Anonymous said...

Good Post, I remember Shaykh Yaser Birjas saying something along the same lines

mezba said...

when I think of post-doctorates I think the same thing!

Ali Zelmat said...

I totally agree... I have stopped attending certain classes myself because the same group of people has been going around in circles for literally years. Growth needs to be a part of education. Otherwise, you could just spend all your time watching vapid tv shows, and in the end your accomplishment will be the same. You'll have spend a lot of time and you'll be right where you started.