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?
2 thoughts on “It’s time to say “I Do””
Hi Kristine –
I completely agree with you that we need to engage our students in order to get them interesting in the class and begin the learning process. While I believe that will work with 90% of students, there will be some that in my opinion will be unwilling to engage. What about those students? How do reach all students? If we are truly going to have No Child Left Behind, then I’m wondering how to accomplish that task. The only way I can think of is through more personal, one on one teaching.
I really like the stress you put on learners having to commit to the subject before really being able to engage in learning. Your prompt to reflect on our past courses and ask ourselves what worked best on us is interesting. As our class is full of successful graduate students, this sample size may not be the most representative. Speaking for myself, I had such a natural passion for the material I wound up studying that it didn’t take much encouragement from my professor to go digging for more information. And I think that is a good thing to keep in mind here, some students will naturally be passionate about a topic that other will never be interested in but have to take the class because it’s required. Every student will have unique motivations for saying “I do” to learning and it’s our job to get as many as possible to take the plunge.