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We had to teach ourselves in this course. So, the criticism is one of those backhanded compliments. The teacher is making students figure out things for themselves. They are doing the hard, messy work of learning. If a teacher makes the students come up with examples when she has a perfectly good list she could be giving them, that teacher is not doing her job.
My friend and colleague Larry Spence wrote about this same issue in April, issue of The Teaching Professor newsletter. In addition to violating expectations, students respond negatively to this style of teaching because most of them want learning to be easy. When I took an introductory chemistry course with a group of beginning students, the instructor used an approach in the lab that drove us nuts.
He refused to answer questions. If you asked him a question, he responded by asking you a question. The students and me, for a while thought he was being obstinate, or trying something he thought was clever. Then one day when the solution in our beaker changed color and started boiling like mad even though the Bunsen burner was set as low as it would go, he cruised over, sniffed our solution and asked us a question.
Thinking the liquid might be about to explode, we shut down the Bunsen burner and started talking about what we thought was happening. After some discussion, we figured out what was going on with our experiment. It was then that somebody pointed out that we had just answered the question the instructor asked us 15 minutes ago. Some lab groups never figured it out. In the seminar section I taught that accompanied the course we had a heated discussion about whether teachers were obligated to answer student questions.
Weaning students from their dependence on teachers is a developmental process. Rather making them do it all on their own, teachers can do some of the work, provide part of the answer, or start with one example and ask them for others.
This is such an important topic. I welcome you to share in the comment box how you help your students understand their role in the teaching and learning equation. I completely agree in facilitating learning in students through flipping in the classroom. Sometimes you do have to take in consideration what kind of students you are having to teach.
You have to have a mix of both lecture and flip activities to stimulate learning. You cannot just ask questions and think you are promoting learning. It is about learning the concept. So, building the foundation is important. You need knowledge to apply. A good instructor is one who can provide both. Unfortunately many "teachers" think facilitating learning means sending the student to do independent projects and then commenting on the project.
Teaching involves sharing experience and knowledge as well as guidance. If all we needed to do was send the student to the library to imbibe of knowledge then no teachers would be needed. I wonder if students would even know the library exists without "teachers," as you say, did not send them to the library.
What I was most grateful for, after finishing my degree, was having learned through those many projects how to learn. It actually makes me think of that quote, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Unfortunately, to use your term, most students would prefer the grocery store style of teaching. Nope, ALWAYS find out who your learners are, what they are already prepared to do, what motivates them and why they are there.
Only then can you build a course that engages and then challenges them. The trend seems to be shifting back to students wanting the answers pronto rather than embracing engaged, self-directed learning. It's hard to facilitate both styles at once. I have had more than one class split over "my" methodology…now I provide a statement of approach at the beginning of the term and a contract that the student must sign, acknowledging that the student has read and understands the "workshop" approach.
I think I may try this in my courses. I am so tired of students just wanting information spoon fed to them because they have been taught that this manner of teaching is acceptable. They have to teach, negotiate meaning, interact, and move forward…Drives me nuts…. What an innovative idea Sharron! Your "workshop" approach works well if students meet their responsibility to spend time outside of the classroom reading, comprehending, and learning the material.
I work with a population of students who as a whole are not particularly adept in independently learning and suffer from lack of motivation. In community colleges, many students are excellent, but some lack critical thinking and comprehension, and many more don't even want to be there. When I flip the classroom, a few students end up asking and answering all questions, while the rest of the class sits in silence or spaces out because they didn't do the work the night before.
My biggest challenge is finding a balance between between them information and helping them figure out the information they need to know. I would never take your class. Learning comes from Read, See, Do.
Second, show an Example. Third, have the student do it themselves. Students can't learn without steps. Just responding with questions and not providing directions is frustrating time lost.
In life there are many times we must "figure things out" without being given direct instructions. Part of preparing students involves teaching them how to think things through and follow things to a logical conclusion without being spoon-fed all the details. If you teach a student how to learn independently, they can go on to learn anything about any topic in life. If they are waiting for instructions life may well pass them by with those instructions never coming.
Teaching students how to teach themselves is one of the greatest gifts a teacher can pass onto a student. In roughly 75 percent of my college courses, I had to teach myself the subject matter using those commercially published self-learning books because the instructors were inept, lazy, or they practiced the "self-directed-learning" methods mentioned in many of the comments in this thread. By college, I didn't need a teacher to tell me what a library is or how to find answers online in the age of the Internet.
Teaching involves a whole lot more than monitoring attendance, moderating discussions, assigning homework, and telling students to figure it out on their own. After formal education, in the work place, there are plenty of opportunities for former students to figure things out on their own based on the fundamentals they learned in school from those apparently rare educators who selflessly impart knowledge and wisely provide meaningful instruction.
I cringe at the thought of a "course contract". I expect your students do, too. I'm sure this is handed out on the first day, as well. What a heavy-handed way to begin the semester.
I teach a class on critical thinking to MLT students, where I try to get these analytical processes of interpretation, critical thinking, and problem solving started for the students. Then, when our labs in other MLT classes don't work, then we apply and develop those learned skills. These are the expected skills that are needed in the workplace as a professional in a hospital laboratory, performing the testing for the diagnoses on patients.
Reagents may go bad, bacteria may not grow in culture, or instruments may malfunction, and as professionals, they are expected to problem solve, fix, and then continue with their analyses and service for the patients.
Anything less is a disservice to them and the patient. So, the students know that this critical thinking is a major part of their education and training. We are 'Medical Detectives"; it's what we are and do. This is true for most of the Technical careers out there, they must think, not just memorize. They must DO and the time may be in an emergency setting. The only teaching experience that I have is raising 4 children and coaching child sports.
I have been a hands on manager in the trucking industry and owned my own business. The best teachers that I ever had gave me the instructions and made me come up with the answer. Many times there are several ways to answer the same question correctly, but there may be better and faster means to the same answer.
That is practical learning that can be applied to any profession. When teachers spoon feed their students, not much is learned. When the student goes out into the real world they are lost.
Excellent points here, Sonny. Especially relevant is that regarding "real-world" expectations…if we instructors in classrooms must constantly explain WHY we use a certain methodology Socratic method is the one I often get nailed for using, which cracks me up, since it's time-tested , then students are not learning HOW to learn.
Instead, they are learning that the world owes them an explanation. Now that is bad teaching. There's a difference between using Socratic teaching methods and being completely disengaged. I've had both kinds of teachers. There are some teachers who sit in the back of the room drinking Mountain Dew planning football plays or watching YouTube videos at his desk while we're supposed to read the next section in our Algebra textbook and do the next problem set on our own.
He does this every day. There are others who help up think through problems. They know what kind of questions to ask when we get stuck, or how to break large problems into smaller problems for us to solve on our own or in groups. These kinds of teachers drive us crazy sometimes, but we DO learn things from them. And, at least it's not like they aren't trying to help us at all…. I actually do an activity in first week that requires students to answer the question:
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