Personal vs Professional

Merging our personal lives with our professional one, in my opinion, is a struggle. Although the two definitely do impact each other and play a role in both the minor and major decisions we make in each of them, they do so in a very unconscious manner. But our constant urge to divide the two results in contradictory feelings and thoughts on how our profession may be a big factor in making us achieve a much more valuable goal- growing to become better human beings. This is particularly relevant to fields that are based on facts, on close-ended solutions making little room for what we truly value.

To tackle this, in an educational setting, it is essential that classes are designed in a manner that allow curiosity, critical thinking and creativity. In addition, by connecting the influence that the field has on society, to encourage students to find ways that could potentially solve the troubles associated with current ones and make them more efficient by introducing them to associated aspects in a pertinent manner. Another important aspect of being able to allow students to be identify with their fields in a more personal approach relates to Parker Palmer’s suggestion to allow students “to see how, when we fail and fall down, as we always do, we manage to get up again.” As educators, having the ‘chance’ to become a role model (even if to a few students) should push us to be who we are, to show what our personal aspirations, the struggles associated with them and the respectable ways in which we become vulnerable as we grow out of them. Thus, being an evidence to the inevitability of resistances they will come to face throughout their lives and anticipation to overcoming them.

Does inclusive teaching affect students’ ability to excel?

In her post ‘How diversity makes us smarter’, Katherine Phillips makes a great point on how being in a group of diverse people allows us to produce better work, and the reasons for it being so. Being around individuals who don’t know much about one truly does push us to be at our best selves. When we interact with people who are different from ourselves, we are more conscious of the way we act as we try to portray ourselves in ways that would allow them to get the best impression they possibly could- whether it be about our background, intellect, culture among other aspects that shape who we appear to be (not necessarily who we are). This also involves the efforts made to show that certain negative stereotypes made about the groups of people we identify with are not true.

Although the benefits of being ‘smarter’ in a diverse groups, one needs to be cautious about how they go about communicating with those who are different and should in fact disregard any differences that may make another feel excluded. This can include the interactions students have within an academic setting. Similarly, in a classroom, it is extremely important for teachers to look at every single student the same way. And to go into every class with the intention of doing so without giving any regards to any stereotypical thoughts they may have built up for one reason or another on the background of students. This also includes the intellect level they perceive the student to be at. For instance, if one student appears to perform poorly and another well on a specific assignment or during class discussions, it is not uncommon for teachers to be more responsive and willing to better explain to the student who is doing better believing that he/she will eventually understand the concept.

Grades shutting down student interests

The opportunity given students to take electives at college allows them to explore and awaken interests, and to acquire new views on topics. General education classes offered stimulate intellectual interests and offer students a broader understanding of the world through the introduction of material  that they would not necessarily be exposed to within classed associated with their majors. In picking elective classes, students are inclined to classes that are interesting to them, ones taught by professors with excellent teaching reputation, or, unfortunately, ‘easy’ classes to merely complete the requirement.

Current student evaluations of their teachers in higher education are biased and the metric they have are difficult to assess teaching with. In fact, with support implying that expected grades have a positive effect on course evaluations, evaluations in some cases have lead to a negative effect on teaching quality as biases in evaluation provide professors incentives for grade inflation further leading to a misrepresentation of student learning.

Regardless of learning expectations the choice of ‘easy’ classes plays a major role as students pick their classes. This is particularly clear as students recommend classes and professors to other students merely depending on workload and grades. Such classes are commonly known as ‘easy A’ classes that give students more time for other pursuits without risking their grade point average. Hence, factors resulting from detrimental issues of grade inflation impel students to choose easy classes over ones that allow the engagement in genuine intellectual interests and prepare them for their careers.

Instilling better learning in children

As students, we often struggle(d) to make it to class, let alone be mindful of what we are learning, or being taught. Unless, of course, the class is one that is interesting and designed to engage all students. Growing up, children are rarely exposed to experiences that help understand the important of learning and to hold value to it. Instead, learning is associated with difficulty and boredom. This has led to the continuation of mindless learning as adults, even in fields that they develop passion for.

Mindless learning is not an issue that has only come to exist now. Yet the massive fast pace growth in technology (which may lead to distractions) has made it more transparent. To become mindful learners, instilling that value in children is of utmost importance. This is especially essential in elementary and middle school children since it is the age at which the learning experiences children have are a major determinant of the way they perceive education and learning in general.

Although digital learning in today’s world can enhance the learning process through engaging students, educators not interested to incorporate newer technologies should still improve their pedagogical skills in the ‘regular’ classroom setting. A way in which to increase the curiosity of all students and make them more mindful is through establishing the basis that makes the knowledge significant (in the present or to the future). This can be done by relating the theory of concepts to their applications and to how they, in some way or another, resonate with each individual by being part of what is or what shapes the society they live in.

Value of learning: student vs teacher

The increasing need to improve the quality of teaching and learning is an important issue that continues to receive attention among educators and the impact it has come to have on learning communities is central. Students have come to place great importance on earning money in comparison to the past, and they lack a love for learning while they aim to gain the needed competencies not necessarily provided by faculty members. As a result, the value they hold for education and learning almost never exists. Not only is this a major determinant for the value students come to hold for education, but is also as an influencing role of teachers and schools.

It is fortunate that, in higher education, faculty have great freedom to structure their teaching practices as developing their own teaching methods is not a subject for collective deliberation but is rather left to the judgment of individual faculty members. Faculty members need to start to develop their pedagogical capability in addition to their expertise in their fields. They need to contribute to the quality of teaching and to encourage initiatives that set a favorable learning and teaching environment imparting valuable support and inspiring reflection on their teaching roles. Not only should they strive for good teaching encouraging student learning, but also scholarly teaching where teaching is an area of study in which proficiency is constantly being developed. Correspondingly, they ought to engage themselves with pedagogical action research further flourishing their skills. In addition to professors’ passion for learning and for their field, this conceivably endorses passion for teaching and passion for students, which involves understanding student approaches to learning, motivating students and helping them through academic struggles.

This can also help with the problem in faculty planning that does not support the educational aim to prepare students for their future careers, where professors base their teaching on their own practiced interests and priorities rather than on students’ desires for learning and the chance to actively create rather than passively consume. Hence, teachers must strike the balance where student are taught basic course material, as well as the approaches they could potentially use in applying them, and thus gain knowledge from faculty expertise and prepare for probable future careers.

Networked learning

Currently being so technological and mobile, the world has greatly impacted education and the learning process. Whether that impact is positive or negative depends on how the technologies are used. For instance, technology sometimes becomes insignificant and a distraction to students if not well integrated to the old school learning methods. On the other hand, network learning stemming from the presence of technology is a promising means through which the learning process and environment can be enormously enhanced. Through the development and maintenance of different connections, more opportunities are made possible. For instance, through network learning, a much larger audience is addressed compared to the smaller sized group in classroom settings and face-to-face learning in general. This also becomes an advantage since those delivering and sharing the work, ‘the teachers’, are better motivated to improve the quality of their work and become more passionate about it knowing that the benefit is reaching more people. From the learners side, an outside the classroom related learning environment, such as learning through service experiences, study abroad, and internship opportunities better enable students to explore and awaken their real interest, acquire new ideas, and simulate their intellect. Through this, students are offered a broader, more realistic, understanding of the world. In a similar manner, having access to a wider scope of learning outlets to work with saves students from environments that do not sustain the demands for competencies like interpersonal relations, communication and leadership skills that students have.