Let Go

Yesterday I went to two seminars with Mark Taylor entitled, Generation NeXt Comes to College. There were several heads bobbing up and down in agreement with his emphasis on student-centered learning – I have a neck ache from nodding my head so hard. After reading George Sieman’s post, I wish he could have been at my seminar instead of his.

I think that educators really need to take a look at who they are teaching for … themselves or their students. When we take an honest look at our true beliefs and values regarding education does teaching or learning come to the surface? If I spend most of my time dumping content into the empty heads of my students, then teaching is most important – what I have to say takes precidence over everything else. If I strategize activities and assessments that call on the students to be engaged and take responsibility for their own knowledge acquisition, then learning is important.

Many teachers/instructors have to get past the application of behaviorism to the college classroom – it doesn’t fit – it doesn’t teach the skills that our students need to function effectively in the world. What we need is a wholistic approach that teaches students how to problem solve, how make critical evaluations and decisions, and how to utilize their gifts and talents to the fullest.

It’s not about me, the instructor … it’s about my students and how much I can prepare them for being the best at whatever they decide. I spent many years coaching – volleyball mostly – some at the high school level and some at the college level. My purpose was always the same, get them ready for the game – prepare them for as many contingencies as possible – show them how to play – break down the skills and the situations, then put them back together – give them opportunities to play and be successful in the safe practice environment.

What is different between this approach and what any teacher should be doing? It doesnt’ matter whether the course is content-based or process-based – they need to be learning what we, the experts have decided will best suit the objectives of a particular class. It’s time to give up the throne … I’ve always said, “I’m the Queen of my classroom” … it’s time for student participation in my classroom government. My expertise is not just on the content level; it’s also in my determination of what is the best way to engage students in their own learning; determining what they need to know in order to be able to apply the content of the course; how this course blends with the big picture of their education and future.

I could go on and on … but I’ll step down from my soapbox … at least for the moment. But remember, it’s not about how good my lecture show is – it’s about how much of my class will they take with them when we’re done.

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