Does it matter if students leave courses with a positive attitude toward the content area? Maybe successful acquisition of content is all that really matters. Maybe teachers don’t need to be concerned if students “liked” the content. As physics professors Duda and Garrett (reference below) point out, this is about more than whether or not students “liked” physics.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
The literature has made us aware of the importance of a student’s connection with a faculty member, advisor, or other significant adult and its impact on academic success and retention of students. For first-generation students, this can be especially critical, as they require assistance not only in what to take and why, but also how to understand and negotiate this new and overwhelming environment. Universities employ a variety of methods and people to attempt to ensure that this connection be established and maintained. Advisors often fulfill this role for students in their first year in higher education.
Fall semester is well underway at my institution. Prior to classes starting I had the opportunity to have lunch with a couple of fellow faculty members. During our lunch, we discussed many topics related to the upcoming term, but classroom management emerged as a common point of contention.
Rapport, defined as “the ability to maintain harmonious relationships based on affinity” (a definition cited in the article referenced below), is more colloquially thought of as what happens when two people “click”—they connect, interact well, and respond to each other favorably.
Anyone teaching a class or giving a presentation faces a fundamental challenge. You want to make the most of every minute you have with your students, but it’s been proven that we can only retain about 20 minutes of content in our short-term memory before we have to reflect on it in order to move it to our long-term memory or it will be lost. Add to this the violently condensed attention span of the general population and anyone hoping to provide a content-rich education in the time slots of traditional classes faces an uphill battle.
In a 2008 essay that was published in the Journal of Cell Science author Martin Schwartz writes of the “importance of stupidity” when doing research in the sciences. Schwartz argues that during his graduate research in the sciences, “the crucial lesson was that the scope of things I didn’t know wasn’t merely vast; it was, for all practical purposes, infinite.”
“One of the biggest barriers to online learning is our inability to respond in the moment, unless we happen to be on live chat or video, which is really rare in most of the online learning world,” says Rick Van Sant, associate professor of education at Ferris State University.
Although we strive to uphold academic integrity, we may unknowingly be committing plagiarism. As we know (and tell our students) plagiarism is copying from a source verbatim, but it is even more than that. According to Reference.com, “plagiarism is the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one’s own original work.”
Learning research indicates that people learn better in the presence of some emotional connection—to the content or to other people. Creating this emotional connection is particularly challenging in the online classroom, where most communication is asynchronous and lacks many of the emotional cues of the face-to-face environment. Nevertheless, it is possible to do, with a learner-centered approach to teaching and a mastery of the technology that supports it, says Rick Van Sant, associate professor of education at Ferris State University.
You were hired because of your deep subject matter expertise; knowledge you want to share with your students. The problem is, the number of hours in a typical semester hasn’t changed, but the amount of information in your discipline continues to grow…and it’s all critical. Or is it?