Is teaching more than content delivery?

Good teaching should be.

As I prep for classes this year, I feel meta—I feel like I may be seeing or understanding things more clearly than before.

Student and instructor enthusiasm is high at the beginning of the term.  As an instructor, I provide lots of scaffolding, e.g. motivation for the class, explanation how the course will work, suggestions for how students can be successful.  (I wrote myself a sticky note to remember:

  • NEED to Scaffold, Scaffold, Scaffold
  • NEED to Encourage, Encourage, Encourage
  • NEED to look for the struggling students )

And students make genuine efforts to follow through.

Then at some point (around mid time), the enthusiasm/thoughtfulness slips:  Students and faculty feel tired.  Faculty start to worry about “covering the content” – they focus their energies on “teaching” rather than on student learning.  Students start to worry about grades instead of learning. There doesn’t seem to be any time for thought anymore.  But can there any real learning without thought?  Have instructors forgotten that it’s not what they “cover” but what students learn that matters?  Some instructors seem to have the old school notion that their job is to push all the content out there, and then the students who get it (memorize it?) get rewarded, and those who don’t get it, well not everyone is cut out to be an [ insert discipline ] major.  Hey, not everyone is cut out to go to college.  I disagree.  Our job is to teach all our students, not simply filter out those who can’t learn  the material as fast as we deliver it.

Which brings me to my point:

Can we take a time out during the semester for thought?  Is there a way we can re- generate the scaffolding so that it lasts all term?  I’m looking for practical suggestions here.  I have one thought: to spend a class period after the midterm in my intermediate macro class reviewing some of the things we talked about the first week of the course.  In other words, not just going over the exam, but reminding students what the purpose of the course is?  What students really need to learn from the mass of content we study?  The best way to learn that.   How I am available for help, and how it’s not too late to get a decent grade in the course.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated!


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1 Response to Is teaching more than content delivery?

  1. Wendy Drexler says:

    Teaching should definitely be more than content delivery. Problem- and project-based learning provide opportunities for placing more of the the responsibility of learning on the student. I always ask what is it we want the students to DO rather than what should they KNOW. The more they DO, the more they learn. Mid term hum drums – that’s a slightly different challenge.

    Novelty is an important component of human curiosity. Perhaps that’s one reason why students are so open and enthusiastic at the beginning of a semester. Your idea to regroup with students half way through is a good one. I also suggest thinking about novelty – not in a trite way, but in a way that engages students differently. What about dividing your course into 3 or 4 segments, each of which represents a new approach to learning? Change it up completely, as if you are starting a new term. Move everyone around, change the rules, throw in some challenges that put more of the learning responsibility on the students. Just a few thoughts.

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