Thursday, June 16, 2005

Expectatons about Learning

One of the best discussions I attended on Wednesday was in the Orange Room: people began talking about the disconnect between the new student-centered, life-long-learning pedagogies and students' expectations and desires to remain passive while being taught or fed information. We get frustrated with them, and they with us -- they sometimes even accuse us of not doing our job. I could imagine receiving teaching evaluations for my most successful class. They would say: "The teacher? You want me to evaluate the teacher? What teacher? Was one there?" The administration would love that. I do think it is essential, as people in the orange room continually insisted, that we recognize conflicts in goals:

1) we accredit students, giving them grades that are important for the rest of their lives;
2) we want to teach students to become life-long learners which requires taking risks and forgetting about the grade;
3) we want to disappear as students take charge of their own learning in our classrooms;
4) salary increases and promotion depend upon students focusing on us as the source of knowledge and learning ("This was the best teacher I ever had").

I am about to dip into Barbara Walvoord, Virginia Anderson, Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment -- I hope this helps. Thanks everyone for a thought-provoking day.

16 Comments:

Blogger Louise said...

As a student, I read your entry with great interest. In reflecting on the courses I've taken in college, it becomes difficult to separate the classes I enjoyed the most, the ones I learned the most in, the ones that I found most challenging, and the ones whose teachers I liked best. It's easy for students to enjoy and praise a professor who has an engaging personality and makes learning "fun." While it's often true that these teachers' methods prove highly successful, I believe that just as frequently students gain great knowledge and the skills to become life-long learners in very difficult courses whose teachers may be underappreciated just due to the challenging nature of the content they must teach. I can certainly understand the dilemma faced by teachers. Trying to implement effective teaching strategies while still assigning grades and depending on student evaluations creates a terrible conundrum. If the students were exposed to and interested in the pedagogy that their teachers study, they would have a completely different perspective on the very nature of learning and their teacher evaluations would probably be much more accurate. I wonder if a reassessment of the actual questions posed on these evaulations might be a good idea as our learning strategies shift from a focus on the teacher as the center of learning to a focus on the students as they take charge of their own learning. Also, I've noticed that in many cases students gain a much greater appreciation for their best teachers several years down the road as they realize the lasting impact these teachers have made -- which make perfect sense, if these teachers truly strive to encourage life-long learning.

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