Are your students too conservative? I don’t mean their politics—I’m talking about their attitudes toward ideas and actions that are new, difficult, or complicated. Many of my writing students are conservative learners: they worry about grades and want to “play it safe,” they don’t take time to imagine alternatives, or they have low skill or confidence levels that reduce their abilities to try new things. And sometimes my own teaching or grading practices undermine my invitations to take the intellectual risks that are crucial to student learning.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
I dread the moments when I look out into a classroom and see a collection of blank stares or thumbs clicking on tiny keypads: a pool of disengaged students, despite what I thought was a student-centered activity. Recently, I have been considering how teachers (me specifically) undermine our own efforts to engage students.
At the end of English composition, I ask students how what they’ve just learned in my class might be useful in their other classes. They’re often bemused and surprised to learn that professors in other courses care about their writing. To encourage them to take responsibility for succeeding in their future writing assignments, I hand out a list of 20 questions that they might ask to better understand “what the professor wants,” and thus continue to apply what we’ve been practicing.