A few years ago, my colleague Brenda Whitney spoke at a workshop about how class discussion can take on many different forms, each with its own style and descriptive moniker. Paraphrasing and borrowing language from her handout, with a few revisions of my own, these discussion styles include:
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Teaching and Learning
Plagiarism seems like a clear-cut crime: if the words of another author appear in one’s writing without appropriate attribution, that writer has “stolen” those words. U.S. higher education institutions take the offense seriously: minor cases often result in probation, suspension, or expulsion. This black-and-white perspective toward plagiarism, however, does not effectively identify, prevent, or resolve writing issues.
“Any questions?” “Is everybody with me?” “Does this make sense?” I have asked my students these vague types of questions many times and the most common response was…silence. But how should I interpret the silence? Perhaps the students understand everything completely and therefore have no questions. Maybe they have questions but are afraid to ask them out of fear of looking stupid. Or it could mean that they are so lost they don’t even know what to ask! Only our boldest students would say; “Um, you lost me 10 minutes ago, can you repeat the whole thing again?”
The Teaching Assistant (TA) job is typically filled by an upper-level university student or graduate student. It’s a job that requires one to play several different roles. First and foremost, the TA is a student and must complete all responsibilities to maintain this status. Second, the TA has a responsibility to the hiring professor. To the professor, the TA is the assistant and must abide by the requirements set out by the professor. Third, the TA has a responsibility to the students in the class. The role here is that of teacher, tutor, and occasionally advisor.
“If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”
– Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder
Faculty regularly face the problem of getting the students most in need of help to come to the office for help. Not only do a small number of students take advantage of office hours, typically those who show up are not those who most need to be there. In previous issues we have reported on research that offers some reasons why this happens. When students start getting feedback that they are doing poorly, some begin to doubt their abilities. They conclude that they just don’t have what it takes and so getting help isn’t going to make any difference. Other times, it’s the stress of having to face the professor with their failure. Some students are so lost, they don’t even know what to ask, and their confidence is so shaken, they have trouble processing helpful information when it’s delivered.
We teach because we hope to inspire and prepare students for the future. We teach to invite transformation and enact lasting change. But how do we prepare students to step out of their comfort zones and have courageous conversations? How do we ask students to sit across the table from someone different from themselves and truly listen?
When we in the academy state that we desire our students to be whole, I believe we mean that we want them to leave college
“Do you know how much this exam is worth?”
“I can’t find any office hours listed for one of my classes—are there any?.”
“What if I get sick and miss a few classes—will my grade be hurt?”
My answer was the same for all three questions—“I don’t know.” Even though these were my first-year seminar students asking these questions, they were looking at syllabi from their other courses, part of a syllabus review exercise I do each fall with first-time students.
You can tell it’s exam week when you see countless students standing outside the exam room trying to take advantage of some last minute cramming. We wonder how much of this information they are about to regurgitate has contributed to their knowledge of the subject. Is what we’re “teaching” actually learned? Are we teaching in a way such that students can apply what is learned?