Quotation for today

“All teaching in big classes must necessarily make against originality.”

H.G. Wells, The Saturday Review, 14 December 1895

2 comments to Quotation for today

  • Interesting but Is it true? I wonder what he meant by originality. And originality for who – the teacher or the student? Would a lecture count as a big class? e.g. the Christmas Lectures – http://www.rigb.org/christmas-lectures

    • Lisa M Lane

      Unfortunately, the complete letter is more focused on changes to the University of London, which Wells worries will cut off access to the ordinary person, than on pedagogy. Wells was protesting false distinctions between correspondence and university courses, claiming that both necessarily sacrifice originality, and saying that “scholarship” always does this anyway. His aside is about teaching method. Originality is lost primarily on the part of the teacher, who must cover exam content in what Wells calls a “mechanized” fashion, so that large groups may pass exams. This meant the study of sample papers, for example.

      That said, I have certainly experienced this problem pedagogically. I can provide original content, but a large number of student necessitates less original methods, as we see in the use of peer review (which varies qualitatively) to attempt to replace instructor feedback or self-evaluation.