Short and Sweet Thoughts

What is Your One Take Away?

It has been my favorite and most impactful memory in the pursuit of a master’s degree: At the end of every class, the instructor would ask each of us to write down our one take away from that evening’s session.

“What is your one take away?”

A remarkably difficult question to answer. It implies that attention was paid to the class session, that participation occurred, and that critical thinking was performed or is in process.

It is also an unbelievably easy question to answer, if you linger on the surface of what the question asks. Simply ponder through the previous session and find something, anything, and express it to the instructor.

I find that as I teach at the community college level, I am asking a modified form of the question to my students: “What is your one take away from this class that you’ll apply to your future?”

Often the answers revolve around the software program taught, a technique that is now in their arsenal, or things that the students think I might want to hear. But the question and the answer is not about me and what I may or may not have taught.

That is the beauty of the question.

It is about the revelation of truth inside the individual–acknowledged or ignored–as the question is answered. It is about the moment that the student begins to see that education and learning is not about a top-down hierarchical dissemination of data and information.

It is about critical analysis inside the human being as that data is analyzed, ripped apart, combined with other information, and integrated into his or her existence.

It is about the collision of interpretations, resulting in a greater understanding and the advancement of a field of study.

That is why the question is so beautiful.

“What is your one take away?”