I teach but do they learn?

What is important is the learning, not the teaching. Every student is unique, and can be unpredictable, but given the chance and the necessary resources, every student can succeed, even if not everyone at the same time and not everyone in the same way. Teachers can occasionnally be wrong, if they are wrong too often they shouldn’t be teaching, but if they are never wrong, they belong in heaven, not a in a university!

Students can learn more in talking to one another than in listening to faculty, but faculty has to prepare engaging and interesting interactions and motivating activities. One key to improvement is reflection, thinking about what you want to achieve in your classroom, the desired learning outcomes and what you and your students need to do to achieve them.

The simplest form of interactivity and yet one of the most effective is called the ‘Think- pair- share’ strategy. The basic idea is to ask the whole class a question and have each student ‘think’ about it for 1-2 minutes. Then, pairs are formed and both members discuss their answer, each pair member shares with one another what they thought about the question. Finally, that gets shared with the class as a whole! The think-pair-share strategy is very effective to recapture student attention and stimulate deeper processing. I often ask my students to think about a question for one minute, write their ideas for another minute, and then share with a neighbour. Students are then more likely to participate in a general discussion on that question.

If we compared learning to driving, we could say that in a classic transmissive mode, the teacher is the driver who decides which route, which speed, which stops to make. In that setting, the student is a passive observer of what is going on. Now let’s imagine the opposite situation, the student is the driver and the teacher is a passive instructor giving advice, explanations and warnings. In that second situation, despite the fact that the teacher is passive, he or she has created an active learning environment!

Not everyone is a born ‘great teacher’, but anyone with the ability to get a job in higher education can become a good teacher!

Svinicki, D., McKeachie, W., McKeachie’s Teaching Tips (2009) 13th Ed.

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