postheadericon Mindfulness? Teaching and learning? What is our role?

How does one learn? How do we all learn? In an exercise in class, we were instructed to come up with six words to indicate how we feel we best learn. “Learn” is not a simple prospect, and each group of six words, while exhibiting patterns or trends, were different. One student may not learn in the same manner as others in a class.

(Inapplicable side note) Standardized testing, SOLs, SATs, GREs, whatever the acronym, represent a measurable base-level of concept understanding and (in some cases) application. But do they measure learning? Learning material, or learning how to take a standardized test? If standardized testing is an example of “teaching to the test,” what does that mean for students that fail those tests? Do they not understand the subject matter? Do they not understand the test? I’m sure we can all rant on this one for some time. Math, hard science, medicine, engineering – fact-based subjects, where either you know or understand it or you don’t, can be more easily measured through testing than, say, an understanding of poetry, or a presidential State of the Union address. Yet they are each subject to similar measurements and held to similar standards in public education… I do look forward to this ideological and pedagogical argument in class (end inapplicable side note).

As an instructor of any subject or any type at any level, one wants one’s students to have the best chance of taking whatever it is they’re hearing, seeing, and hopefully learning about and coming away with the knowledge and the ability to apply that learning in meaningful ways. But as we all know, that does not always happen. Instead, we have a handful of earnest students that fulfill that ideal, and the rest fall short somewhere along the way. Why is this? Is it a shortcoming on our parts as instructors? Is it a shortcoming or lack of effort on the part of the student? Are they staring at you vacantly during class because they’re bored? Unengaged? Unentertained? Apathetic? Overwhelmed? Is it the established system? A lot of different fingers point in a lot of different directions.

Are we broadcasters? Are we educators? Are we connected-learning moderators? What is our role, how should that role evolve with technological trends? Should education be trendy? Should we snapchat notes to students instead of using hi-def screens, or PowerPoint slides?

Educator vs moderator according to Merriam-Webster:

Educator: : a person (such as a teacher or a school administrator) who works in the field of education; one skilled in teaching; a :  a student of the theory and practice of education.

Moderator: someone who leads a discussion in a group and tells each person when to speak : someone who moderates a meeting or discussion

Where do we stand?

 

 

 

5 Responses to “Mindfulness? Teaching and learning? What is our role?”

  • Ken Black:

    Hi,

    The question really could be: “Where do you stand?” As a larger group, yes, we need to figure out how to keep our students engaged and interested in our class. However, this starts at the individual level as an educator and as a moderator at times. Also is there some aspect in creating a performance for the classroom, while still being genuine to the material that can create an engaged classroom?

  • Krystalyn Morton:

    I would like to think that I serve more as an educator than a moderator, but we know that this is not always the case. I would hope that my students would take what they learned and continue to apply that outside the classroom, but this is also not always the case. This ideology makes me wonder not only about how we approach teaching, but also the material that we teach.
    Looking back on your educational history and your previous degree(s), how much do you really use on a daily basis? What is the real motivation behind coursework: to create challenges for students and make it seem like a degree is actually worth it, or to teach them life skills that they will use consistently once they leave our campuses? I think the main thing comes down to whether you view teaching as an opportunity to influence the lives of young people, or just means to obtain a check.

  • Katie O. Spooner:

    Mr. Atkins,

    Standardized testing does not measure many things, but one thing they most certainly do not measure is creativity. While many individuals may say that there field does not require creative practice, they all do in some way. Medicine field requires doctors to be creative in many ways. They may have to improv how they treat a patient. I think it becomes a quest for the individual to decide whether or not that want to understand how this relates to them. Unfortunately, many people do not want to look deeper. If they can’t see on the surface how it relates to them, then they look no further.

    Yet, I think there comes a point in teaching when you simply have to accept that not everyone is going to be engage in the class and move on. I’m not sure if it is a shortcoming on the instructors part. I’m sure somewhere along the way for the student it was, but I think by the time they get to higher education these feelings for a student have already been defined and there is only so much we can change about thirteen year old habits. Students will either want to explore strange new places with us or not. It’s the job of the educator to give everyone the chance regardless.

  • fdelamota:

    I think we are both educators and moderators. Our main role is to teach, but we are actually constantly moderating, not just the digital media we may use for our classes, but also guiding the questions and answers of our students so they can better understand the material.

    Regarding your questions on why are students bored and unengaged, I think there is a mutual responsibility between teachers and students, some sort of vicious cycle. Students get unmotivated when the professor fails to engage them into the topic, but professors also lose teaching stamina, when they see that only a handful of students show interest. Traditionally, either of the two groups (students or teachers) have been blamed for the lack of success of an educational system (students in the past, teachers more so nowadays), but there is obviously a shared responsibility.

  • I think at this crucial time of integrating technological trends into education, it is our responsibility as professionals to act as educators, moderators, and above all communicators. It is the duty of the professional to ensure that our areas of expertise can be easily understood by the layperson. We cannot afford to sit in a position of privilege or rest on our laurels, and must work harder than our predecessors to create a new era of open dialogue and information exchange. Too long have professional fields been arenas of arrogance and ego. We have a tremendous opportunity to open the world of higher education to the masses through means of social media.

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