Monthly Archives: April 2017

A class full of introverts? Or is “sage on the stage” sometimes a good thing?

This has been an intense semester. The political climate, trying to figure out whether I was graduating this semester or not, whether I was going to get a job, more hours taken up by service than normal, etc. I think it has been intense for almost everyone, at least those I have talked to. Looking back, the last semester that was this intense was the last time I taught during a regular semester (not summer or winter session). Teaching semesters are a lot, especially when you care so much.

Today I have been working on preparing for my last two class sessions of the semester. I wrote the final exam earlier in the week, so it really is the last two classes I had to prep. And I struggled. I think the intensity of this semester and the fact that I have no idea how this semester went for my students is making me unsure of the entire thing. Leaving me with a knot in my stomach about it all. It’s sort of like wondering if I can only talk a good game about teaching and not actually do it well. (Then again, what is good teaching exactly? We all seem to have different definitions).

Really the issue this semester has been that I can not get my students to talk in class. A very small number of them will speak when they are presenting group work. But when I try and do a class discussion, it is consistently crickets. I have done every trick I know or can think of. I have had them do small group work, write-pair-share, writing and then speaking, calling on people randomly, etc. And still, every time I attempt to do any discussion, they do not make eye contact and do not respond. I have stood there waiting for someone to speak for a couple of minutes, even (I sing a song in my head, which helps me know how long I have waited). Getting little to no response is disheartening. It is also difficult for me as a shy introvert to have to be on for a full 75 minutes.

Yet, I am not convinced that they are not engaged. I have had them do weekly journals, which are in part a reflection on that week’s material. Most of those have been amazing. When I take up their written ideas or reflections during class, they are fully thinking about what is being discussed. I have not had a big problem with phones, Facebook, or shopping in my class. Of course there is a little bit, but not to the point where I have had to say anything to the class like I have in the past. So, I am wondering if there is not some piece of selection bias, where I have a class of introverts, who are more comfortable thinking about things and processing them on their own.

I am also left wondering if the “sage on the stage” is always a bad thing. We talk so much about how in 21st century learning, we need to not be a sage on the stage and feed the students with answers. That we should guide them. That we should do hands on learning. Yet, in this semester, with a class who rebels against the in class activities and does not like discussion. But when the class pays attention during class and presents clear and well-thought-out reflections every week, could sage on the stage and lecturing be a good thing? I guess time and the Student Perceptions on Teaching (SPOT) scores will tell!