On Teaching and Learning
While I thought the Talk About Teaching essay by Dr. Larry Robbins, What to Look For, was well thought-out and likely of value for those in the teaching profession, I question whether it addressed the right question. The focus of this article was on the improvement of one's teaching. The more central question to ask is what can be done to improve student learning. The focus of Dr. Robbins seems to be highly reflective from the teaching perspective--how presentations are organized, how to structure what is taught, the type of room being used (i.e. "determine acoustical dead spots").
When the shift becomes one of student learning, it throws open many possibilities for teachers. Research is clear that individuals learn in different ways. The focus of this essay is on the presentation of the faculty member (including questions and answers). What gets overlooked is that this type of pedagogy is less than effective for all students. Many students learn through a variety of active learning activities including group projects, service learning, problem-solving activities, doing research, making presentations, debates, etc.
While this may appear as a subtle distinction, the shift in philosophy from effective teaching to effective student learning is a critical difference. As an academic institution we have the responsibility and the capability to assess the efficacy of our educational efforts. We need to strengthen our ability to measure the degree of learning that takes place. We need the courage to change our teaching styles and approaches in response to what we ourselves learn from our assessments.
--David M. Smith, Director of Professional Development,
Center for Professional Development
Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions: short timely letters on University issues can be accepted Thursday noon for the following Tuesday's issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated.--Ed.
Almanac, Vol. 46, No. 18, January 25, 2000