Osguthorpe Explains the Purpose of Education [VIDEO]

Russell T. Osguthorpe, who currently serves as the Director of the BYU Center for Teaching and Learning, was recently featured as a speaker in the Power of Teaching lecture series sponsored by the Department of Teacher Education.

He began his lecture by asking the prospective teachers in his audience to think about their purpose in pursuing teaching careers. “To be a positive impact on somebody else’s life,” one student responded. “To help students pursue their dreams,” said another. “To help students understand their potential and the great things they can do in the world,” another student stated.

After validating each student response, Osguthorpe then offered his own ideas about the purposes of education and explained why he chose and continues to choose to teach: (1) To increase one’s power to exercise personal agency, and (2) To increase one’s capacity to love.

Osguthorpe demonstrated these ideas with a video about an experience President Hinckley had as a young missionary in England. Elder Hinckley’s mission president asked him to meet with a publisher who intended to publish a book with false information about the LDS church. Hinckley was to explain the inappropriate content and convince the publisher to put a disclaimer on the publication. At first the publisher was belligerent, but he eventually softened because of Hinckley’s sincere and persistent attitude and decided to publish the book as fiction. “It was a tremendous lesson to me,” Hinckley recounted in the video. “That experience left a mark upon my life.”

The mission president gave Elder Hinckley an opportunity to exercise his agency to choose good, demonstrating the purposes of good teaching, Osguthorpe explained. The experience was challenging and demanded that Hinckley study the book and then confront a prominent individual, but the mission president demonstrated love and trust in him, thus teaching him that he could do hard things.

Osguthorpe applied these ideas to the public school system. “Our ultimate aim [as educators] is to help students be able to choose the good,” he said, “to help them choose to do things that will stretch them and help them grow. It is not easy, but it is needed to give students more power to exercise their right to choose better in the future.”

Toward the end of his lecture, Osguthorpe instructed the audience to stand up. “Stand a little taller,” he said, “on your tippy toes. Standing taller means you gotta stretch yourself. You’ve got to go beyond what you think might be possible. Only then can the Lord come in and magnify you. As teachers you must constantly stretch yourself and strive to help students stretch themselves as well.”

In addition to leading the Center for Teaching and Learning, Osguthorpe currently serves as a professor in the Department of Instructional Psychology and Technology. He was recently sustained as the General Sunday School President of the LDS Church.

22 February 2010