A large body of research has documented how students who report strong connectedness with college instructors reap many benefits, including: better persistence (Pascarella & Terenzini, 1978), engagement (Umbach & Wawrzynski, 2005), and effort (Kuh & Hu, 2001) in college, as well as greater academic self-concept (Komarraju, Musulkin, & Bhattacharya, 2010), confidence in their ability to succeed (Vogt, Hocevar, & Hagedorn, 2007), and grade point average (Anaya & Cole, 2001; Kim & Sax, 2009). In general, the research literature supports a strong positive correlation between positive student-instructor interactions—both inside the classroom and out—and student learning and development. What is unknown, however, is whether students are aware of these benefits.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
A survey of undergraduate teaching faculty has identified a shift toward more learner-centered teaching practices and a corresponding move away from lectures and other teacher-centered styles.
I’d like to report on a nonscientific study I have been conducting, without human-subjects approval or even a clear research plan. This won’t make it into the research journals, but the results are still compelling.
My “study” has been continuous for over two years. During that time, I have made numerous trips, at random times, from my administrative office to a building on the opposite corner of campus. For nearly three months, I made the round trip twice a day or more. Every time, I have walked through the ground floor of our main general classroom building, which has about 14 classrooms, mostly 30- to 50-person rooms, but also with one 120-person tiered lecture hall. The classrooms are assigned to courses covering a wide range of disciplines, mostly first- or second-year classes.
For faculty looking to create a more learner-centered environment there are always a few bumps in the road. First they need to get used to
Most of the time research evidence grows by bits and pieces—not all at once, and the evidence documenting the effectiveness of learner-centered approaches is no exception. It continues to accumulate, as illustrated by this study. It occurred in a third-year pharmacotherapy course in a doctor of pharmacy program. The students were randomly assigned to five- and six-member groups, with each group being assigned a patient case with multiple drug-related problems.
Would you let your students decide when you hold office hours?
How about whether projects are worth more points than exams, or vice versa?
Would you let your students decide some of the topics that will be covered in the course?
In an editorial published in the Journal of Geoscience Education, a geography faculty member offers a testimonial in favor of learner-centered teaching. “Through my 15 years of teaching Earth System Science, I have explored various ways of teaching it and have become convinced that the Learner-Centered Environment, that builds upon constructivist theory principles and fosters teaching practices that recognize the active roles students must play in their learning, is particularly suitable for Earth system science education.” (p. 208)
The two nurse educators who authored the article referenced below begin with a quote from the first page of Stephen Brookfield’s book Becoming a Critical Reflective Teacher. “One of the hardest things teachers have to learn is that the sincerity of their intentions does not guarantee the purity of their practice.”
One of the changes we have seen in academia in the last 30 years or so is the shift from lecture-based classes to courses that encourage a student-centered approach. Few instructors would quibble with the notion that promoting active participation helps students to think critically and to argue more effectively. However, even the most savvy instructors are still confounded about how to best evaluate participation, particularly when it is graded along with more traditional assessment measures, such as essays, exams, and oral presentations…