HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
helping students succeed
One joy of a faculty member in academia is the opportunity to train the next generation of scholars who will continue our work to innovate
If you have ever watched the television show The Big Bang Theory, you know that Dr. Sheldon Cooper sees very little potential in the graduate
Spoon-feeding: it’s a familiar metaphor that implies doing too much for students, doing what they should be doing for themselves, and making something easier than it should be. I heard it used recently in reference to a well-organized, detailed online syllabus that made explicit everything students had to do and why they were being asked to do it.
After teaching statistics classes for more than 25 years and seeing so many students struggling to be successful, I became increasingly frustrated by the fact that no matter how much I believed myself to be approachable, available, and willing to help students outside of class, very few took advantage of the opportunity. I began to wonder not only what barriers existed between me and my students but also how to investigate those barriers and seek solutions.
To: My Students
From: Your Teacher
Re: College and the Real World
I just read about a senior engineering student who was presenting a design project in an upper-division business communications course. In the presentation, he talked about what he would do if he were a “real” engineer. His teacher asked him what it was about what he was doing that wasn’t “real” engineering. He’d designed the project. He was presenting it to a group of his peers. He answered, “It’s school—not real engineering.”
My students have taught me some invaluable lessons during my first two years as a college professor. I’d like to share three of the most important ones here. They aren’t new lessons and I didn’t use any unique methods to learn them. I collected data midsemester from students, I talked with them, and I looked closely at what was happening in my classroom. The lessons were there for me to learn, and taken together they have helped me think more clearly about what I want my students to know and do, and who I want them to become. They are lessons that have made me a better teacher.
Understanding learner needs is essential for providing quality education. One approach to understand learner needs is through the use of student evaluation questionnaires which allow us to collate student feedback or suggestions. A common argument against the use of student evaluations is that students do not know their own needs. However, many studies have shown student feedback/suggestions to be reliable and valid. If we do not even attempt to understand their needs, we may fail to recognize the support they require to be successful.
“So, what does that mean—’I need to provide more scaffolding’?” a teacher asked, with frustration in his voice. He was just back from a peer review debrief. “Maybe that’s more a suggestion than a criticism,” I offered. “Okay, but what do I do to provide more scaffolding?” he asked.
On our campus, we have growing numbers of nontraditional students. The demands on their time out of class are numerous—work, family, and military obligations. It is my job to meet them where they can learn and benefit.