As I transition from some of my last years as a student to a hopeful professor, I have come to realize the commitment issue that I may face from my future students. Michael Wesch discusses this commitment issue; for example, he mentions in his anti-teaching article that students are more likely to ask administrative questions versus exploratory questions. If students are to be engaged to learning, educators must foster the desire for students to delve deeper into academic topics and to ask creative questions. Many educators are teaching, yet many students are not learning; unlike the title of the act, many students are being left behind (as Ken Robinson discusses in his TED talk). Robinson concludes that this discrepancy could be due to a diagnostic focus, instead of one that elicits passion for gathering a greater understanding of a certain field of interest. He further suggests individualizing teaching and learning to awaken this curiosity and creativity in students; if teaching is reformed as such, students may be more prone to moving beyond administrative concerns and into worldly inquisitions. If students start to ask imaginative questions, the teacher may have successfully cultivated a more global vision that sees beyond the next exam.
Just as engagement precedes marriage in a relationship, the aforementioned curiosity must precede true commitment to learning and therefore to education. Drop-out rates will continue to increase in this country until true commitment is established in more students. The trend of modern education systems seems to neglect this first step of engagement; often as soon as students enter school, they are being greeted with stressful assessment situations before their attention is sparked with thought-provoking questions. In college and even in high school courses, the first week is called “syllabus” week because of the importance of such administrative tasks. The student is told test dates and grading criteria before entering any discussion about any course material. After syllabus week, lecture-style classes begin. As Wesch alluded to, when students cannot fit this narrow mold of lecture teaching styles paired with emphasized high scores on assessments, they will not only feel unfit for the mold of school but they will also lose any desire to find a fit. Students must say “I Do” to learning; and the material must be proposed in a way that makes denial near impossible.
So, in what way should material be proposed? I believe if we each examine our past educational experiences, we can arrive at an answer of the most effective method to evoke passion about learning. Personally, I refer to my second semester, senior year computer science course. This course was an introductory course, and I attended class “just for fun,” given my prior completion of undergraduate credits. My professor began the class with applications. I vividly recall the first lecture. He introduced his research before launching into how we can find this material in our everyday lives. We began learning by addressing its relevance, and he asked us to brainstorm how we could find personal relevance in this course. He offered us opportunities to engage from the first day of the course, and in turn, even those auditing the class attended every session. I believe such willing attendance exhibits the results of a successful material proposal method.
How do you think material should be proposed?