April 22, 2016

university library

Spending time in the university library.  Credit: Vic. 夏 / Flickr Creative Commons

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg… there’s one thing they all have in common. They all dropped out of college.

Are famously innovative college dropouts just a statistical outlier? Or do they say something about what college really offers to its students?

Matthew Mayhew is an Associate Professer of Higher Education at New York University, and he’s explored how colleges can impact student’s willingness and desire to innovate. What he found was surprising.

According to his study, kids with lower GPAs tended to value innovation more than their straight A counterparts.

That result led Mayhew to question what grades really mean:

“What are GPAs good for? GPAs are good for... assessing whether the student understands the college system… and they do predict whether or not a student stays in and graduates from that college.”

But GPAs, apparently, aren’t so hot at measuring creativity or creative aspirations.

And Mayhew thinks that colleges should rethink both how they’re measuring and how they’re teaching students.

Though he doesn’t want colleges to stop offering traditional classes (after all, a doctor can be really innovative and creative, but if she doesn’t know a left ventricle from a ruptured aorta, you wouldn’t want her to operate on you), Mayhew does think higher education can do a better job of incorporating outside-the-box thinking and experimentation.

“I don’t think it’s a stretch to say we need to be able to teach all students the skills they need to take an idea and roll it out, as part of the standard equipment that college students should graduate with.”

college graduates, Matthew Mayhew, higher ed

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