As a marketing professor, I often found myself scouring publications, stores, and my cabinets prior to a lecture, to find real-world examples of concepts I was teaching. Although students seemed to appreciate and learn from these examples, it didn’t get them as actively involved in their learning as I’d like.
Teaching and Learning
Most faculty (especially those reading a publication like this) do care about students. We wouldn’t be doing all that we do if we didn’t. However, some semesters are long, some students are difficult, we get behind, we have too much on our plates, and we get stressed and tired. When that’s how we’re feeling we don’t always show that concern in tangible ways.
When learners reflect, they thoughtfully consider (or reconsider) an experience. If the reflection is critical, it challenges the customary ways of understanding or explaining an experience. Critical reflection questions meanings and looks at assumptions. The opportunity to reflect on experiences develops critical thinking skills and helps students to learn things for themselves.
I bring a box to the first day of class — especially if it’s a course with beginning students. At precisely the time class starts, I walk into the room with my box filled with random, quirky objects. I like to include a small Alf doll, a pad of Post-its, some scissors, perhaps a can of Slim-Fast, a candle, a rock, a comb, and maybe six or seven other objects indiscriminately gathered as I leave for class. As soon as I enter the room, I put the box on the table; take each article out; place it on the table; and finally, when all of them are out, return them to the box. Then I ask the students to take out a piece of paper and write down as many of the items as they can remember.
A common phrase uttered during the first day of class is: “You will be graded on class participation.” As instructors we know what we expect. But what exactly do our students think we mean by that statement? The longer I’ve taught the more I’ve come to realize that students may not really know.
“How many of you would keep listening to a CD—even of your favorite band—if the CD regularly skipped?” That’s the question I ask my students. Although the question keeps evolving (and now that students have abandoned CDs for iPods, I may have to come up with another analogy), my point doesn’t change. Even in pleasurable pursuits, we tolerate distractions or interference only to a degree, after which we abandon the activity.
Course management software programs make it especially easy for instructors to provide students with a set of complete lecture notes. It seems that more instructors are doing this, as witnessed in the regularity with which students ask that the instructor’s notes be posted. But is giving students a complete set of notes a good idea?
Faculty who communicate intended learning outcomes help students to be more aware of their learning. The realities of “meta-learning” are that students gain practice in becoming more reflective on their experiences as learners—they start to see the why and how of education as it translates into knowledge and skills. Just as important is how they begin to view the educational experience in its entirety.
If you’re interested in approaches that encourage students to participate in class and develop their public-speaking skills, as well as techniques that help you learn student names, then my “daily experts” strategy may be of use to you.
Communication educators have taken a well-known typology of power and applied it to teachers. According to this theory-based schematic, individuals exert influence over other individuals based on five different sources of power.