One of the biggest challenges that we face is a gap between what we are trying to accomplish in our classes and what our students seem to need.
|Typical instructor goal for students
||Help students think like a philosopher; ask questions; challenge assumptions; take intellectual risks.
|The student agenda
||Overcome obstacles, reduce chaos in their lives, get highest grade for the least work.
|Why don’t they share our agenda?
||It is not that students are anti-intellectual, but their lives are often chaotic, filled with distractions such as:
For more information, read Nathan, Rebekah. My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005.
- Part-time, full time jobs
- Four other courses
- Distractions such as Facebook, IM, text messaging
- Poor time management skills
- Family crises and responsibilities
- Lack of maturity
||Ask your students what they thought of last night’s reading: you’ll hear much more about the difficulty of doing the reading than what they thought of the content. Ask your students how they feel: the most common response will be “tired.” Ask your students what you talked about in the last class: most common response, blank stares. This is not because they were uninterested, but because so much has happened to them since then that by Monday, last Friday’s class seems as though it was in a different century.
|Common faculty responses
- Try to only teach upper division or grad courses
- Teach fewer courses and fewer students
- Get a job at an elite institution where students are more motivated
|An alternative: meeting the challenge
||Develop creative techniques and strategies so that we harness their motivation in a way that allows them to achieve our objective for them, of learning to think like a philosopher. We hope that some of the resources on TΦ101 will help.
|Quote of the day
||“Our students live dog’s lives. One of our years is like seven of theirs.”
Author: John Immerwahr
Update: March 12, 2008