A lot of students just don’t seem all that interested in learning. Most faculty work hard to help students find that missing motivation. They try a wide range of active learning strategies, and those approaches are successful with a lot of students but not all students.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Effective Teaching Strategies
We all have students every course that send us e-mails. Some provide us with information. Some provide us with “excuses”. Some question our instructions. Some question our syllabus and/or course requirements. Some have complaints. Some want “special” treatment. Some feel others have received “special” treatment. In most cases, they want “satisfaction.” And, if you don’t provide this satisfaction, they will go higher to achieve this satisfaction. They will go to your program coordinator the department chair, or dean, or vice president, or even the president.
There is no question that higher education tends to get caught up in “fashionable” program innovations, and learning communities could certainly be considered an example. A great deal of research has established that, in terms of retention and persistence, first experiences in college are tremendously important.
I recently set out to make introductory managerial accounting a more effective learning experience for students. The course is typically taken in a student’s first or second year. The range of experiences students bring to the course can be quite diverse. Some may have never been employed, still live at home, and have parents who work in white-collar jobs. Others may have worked and lived on their own, and have family who may own or run a store or work in factories. This diversity means that some students have no mental picture of how goods are manufactured, while others understand the process required to get a product to the customer.
Most universities press their faculty to add technology to their classroom by adopting the Learning Management System—Blackboard, Moodle, etc. This is a mistake. Faculty often end up spending hours learning the system and loading the same content that they use in the classroom, and finish wondering if the benefit was worth the effort.
Most academics consider Wikipedia the enemy and so forbid their students from using Wikipedia for research. But here’s a secret that they don’t want you to know—we all use Wikipedia, including those academics.
Robert Badger, a professor of geology, describes the lab reports he wrote as a student in an introductory geology class. “I wrote tired, uninspired drivel, merely recounting a vague version of what the professor or teaching assistant had recited, without trying to analyze for myself what it was I had actually observed.” (p. 58) He promised himself that if he ever became a teacher he would not subject his students to “such tedious and pointless exercises.” (p. 58)
For most teachers, a room full of bright students is the stuff dreams are made of. Unless, of course, you’re teaching a course that’s outside of your area of expertise – then it can be a nightmare. You feel like an imposter, and worry that your students will call you out. You cram for each class like you’re back in school.
We are used to discussing topics with our colleagues. They know the material, have already thought a lot about it, and can answer questions quickly. We want conversations in class to clip along at a similar pace—there’s always lots of material the class needs to get through.
Sometimes it’s good to revisit an instructional standby. Discussion is a staple in most teachers’ repertoire of strategies, but it frequently disappoints. So few students are willing to participate and they tend to be the same ones. The students who do contribute often do so tentatively, blandly, and pretty much without anything that sounds like interest or conviction. On some days it’s just easier to present the material.