Quick, what’s your biggest teaching challenge? If you said it’s students who don’t read their assignments or prepare for class, you’re in good company. For the fourth consecutive year that we posed that question in our survey, Faculty Focus readers identified students who come to class unprepared as their biggest day-to-day challenge. It was followed closely by students who are not prepared for the rigors of college. Finishing third this year was institutional budget cuts, which edged out student motivation for the first time. Technology distractions remained as the fifth biggest challenge.
Teaching and Learning
Language influences thought and action. It’s a fundamental idea in linguistics. I remember first encountering it in a class when I was assigned S.I. Hayakawa’s classic Language in Thought and Action. But it’s a principle that’s easy to forget. Here are a few examples that pertain to education, with the question being—how does what we call something affect our teaching and students’ learning?
There are empty chairs in classrooms in Florida this week, at Valencia College, University of Central Florida, and Ana G. Mendez University, spaces left by the youngest victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando. Most of them young gay men, most of them Latino. In the academic world, June is a time of celebration, of convocation, of inspired addresses to graduates ready to take their hard-earned degrees and all that they have learned into the real world. In the LGBTQ communities, June is Pride month, a time to celebrate hard-earned rights, to look back on how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. This year, it is a time to mourn, and as we gather to stand in solidarity, there is that old, familiar feeling of looking over our shoulders for the next threat.
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt of a work that is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. To read the article in its entirety, visit the Teaching & Learning Inquiry website. http://tlijournal.com/tli/index.php/TLI/article/view/125/77
Educational research shows that close student-faculty interaction is a key factor in college student learning and success. Most literature on undergraduate mentoring, however, focuses on planned programs of mentoring for targeted groups of students by non-faculty professionals or student peers. Based on the research literature and student and faculty testimony from a residential liberal arts college, this article shows that unplanned “natural” mentoring can be crucial to student learning and development and illustrates some best practices. It advances understanding of faculty mentoring by differentiating it from teaching, characterizing several functional types of mentoring, and identifying the phases through which a mentoring relationship develops. Arguing that benefits to students, faculty, and institutions outweigh the risks and costs of mentoring, it is written for faculty who want to be better mentors and provides evidence that administrators should value and reward mentoring.
Engagement. . .it’s another one of those words that’s regularly bandied about in higher education. We talk about it like we know what it means and we do, sort of. It’s just that when a word or idea is so widely used, thinking about it often stops and that’s what I think has happened with engagement.
We often hear that peer review is an excellent opportunity for reciprocal student learning. In theory, this makes sense. Since an instructor can only dedicate a certain amount of attention to each student, peer review allows students to receive more feedback and engage more frequently in the content they are learning. Research shows this benefits both the students who receive and provide feedback.
When I tell people that I study the role of communication in teaching and learning, the most common response is: “Isn’t communication just common sense? I’m an expert in what I teach; why do I need to worry about how I communicate?” In reality, communication is a learned verbal and nonverbal skill that all of us must continually refine. When we interact with our students purposefully, we maximize the chances that our content expertise will make a positive difference in terms of their learning.
When teachers tell me about some new strategy or approach they’ve implemented, I usually ask how they found out about it and almost always get the same response: “Oh, a colleague told me about it.” I continue to be amazed by the amount of pedagogical knowledge that is shared verbally (and electronically) between colleagues.
When I hear the words “writing community,” my mind conjures up an elementary school classroom. I picture the warm, fuzzy second grade teacher wearing a warm, fuzzy sweater, handing out stickers and cookies as the students prepare for an authors’ tea. At this special event, parents will make the appropriate cooing sounds as their small children enthusiastically share their writing within the classroom.
Instructor: “OK class, this semester we’ll be giving presentations.”
Students: Collective groan
Instructor: “AND…you’ll be providing each other with feedback.”
Students: Deep sighs and suspicious glances around the room, wondering if they can trust their peers
Does any of this sound familiar? So many professors require presentations and peer feedback in their courses. Indeed, effective oral skills, well-designed presentations, and quality feedback are attributes that employers typically want from graduates. However, these skills are often expected to exist without appropriate support and training.