Undergrads need to know the difference between teaching facts versus opinions
August 3, 2022
University instructors and students usually have contrasting expectations of each other.
One of the most dominant concerns the respective roles and differences between facts versus opinions.
Some students, (and sometimes instructors and administrators too) assume that university instruction should primarily be the transmission of facts and ideas, and dislike it when their instructors offer their own opinions.
This approach to instruction and learning, however, is problematic. Why?
To begin with many students don’t know the difference between facts and opinions and the relationship between the two. Some may even assume that instructors sole purpose is to assist students understand the content of the textbooks or reading materials that that are assigned in the class.
Getting an education that places primacy of knowing facts versus being able to understand, develop, and argue against opinions assumes that life is simple and that there are always correct answers to complex problems and situations.
But the world, more specifically the professions in which a university education is typically required is complex. That is why argumentation, logic, critical thinking, and opinions will almost always be valued.
That being said, facts should be understood as starting points in any discussion or debate, but they don’t win the day. Facts may be wrong (e.g., taken from inappropriate sources) and/or misapplied in particular situations. Also just because an instructor has opinions (which they should) doesn’t mean that students can’t or shouldn’t question them. (Likewise there are better and worse opinions and not everyone’s and every organizations’ opinions are of equal value).
On the other hand, there is significant pedagogical value when students question the instructors perspective and vice versa. This is how we learn and should learn.