w3/ Another Brick in the Wall

Well, one more mini-post for this week:

Thinking about what learning is, I recalled my first undergraduate class, which was an introductory course with 200+ students. I was late for 2-3 minutes and when entered the class, saw the first may be 2-3 rows were full of students with notepads on their laps. “Oh my goodness,” I thought, “what a huge class!”. Then, I moved to the back rows, found a seat at the very back and sat. The dark blue powerpoints were flowing on the screen, the instructor had put some little, shiny, yellow stars on some bullet points, and said on a terribly echoing microphone “Annnddd, these will be on the test”.. Thinking of dark blue background was not a wise choice (since I was not able to read the text from the very back) and recalling the scenes from Another Brick in the Wall (yes, I was young at that times), I caved in, checked the textbook and saw that the starred bullet points were the bold-ed ones.Then I left the class, did not attend to any and got a good grade in the end and now remember nothing from that textbook -besides how expensive it was.

Now I am realizing I was so very lucky to be in the classes of inspiring and encouraging teachers prior and after the class I mentioned above. So that, my passion for learning never deceased. In this regard, I can resonate with the students who drops out from the school. That would be very easy actually. For instance, that class could be my very first experience in the “education system”, and I heard many stories similar to that one. Even in last class, somebody mentioned how things are going on in kindergartens. The second class I attended could be the same. And I am not sure I would be motivated to keep going..

I feel like my definition of learning will improve as the semester continues. Yet, at this point, my 6-word sentence is as following: learning is wanting to be involved. and all the connotations of this sentence.

yesim

sep 6, 2015

5 thoughts on “w3/ Another Brick in the Wall

  1. Ken Black

    Hi,

    Learning is most definitely about being involved. Not only from the side of the learner, but also the teacher. If the teacher is not engaged and interested in the materials, how can the students be as well? In this way the students and the teacher are active, and learning together.

    I hope the class continues to inspire your drive to be involved. Given the story you described, how could you have changed the lecture and classes that are similar to be engaging and involve students? Large lecture classes are not the easiest to do this in.

    Reply
    1. yesim Post author

      Hi Ken,
      Thanks for your comments! I agree with you that the teachers’ engagement is also a big issue, especially while the “trend” of standardization has been creating a great burden on the individuality of the teachers that turn them into powerpoint slides reading/changing machines, which leads the students to be unwilling to be really involved. This is a cyclical process as you mentioned, turns around and around..

      I agree with you that large classes can be challenging for the students to feel and get involved. However, I think there are thousands of ways to help students to feel that they matter. When they matter, we make people feel like they matter, right? This is a natural process. We all mirror, only when our mirroring neurons are activated :) I am a great believer in that, if a teacher (person) recognizes the presence of students (people), they simply get it and reflect back.

      At that particular class, first of all the instructor could prioritize creating a holding environment for the students. Many of the first year students feels like fishes out of their seas, and they don’t know whether they will be able to survive in the ocean or not. They need to be holded first, in my opinion. At least, in my experience I simply felt scared of being in that atmosphere, and I know various first year students here at Tech feeling the same I felt then.

      S/he could create that holding environment by dividing the class into groups and offer them a variety of name learning games for instance. Instead of staying at the dais, s/he could walk around the students and interact with them so that the students would feel like the instructor is a human, like themselves. Instead of changing the slides, s/he could talk in an enthusiastic way, ask witty and stimulating questions, and link the responses to the class material. Ask the students about their ideas, feelings, experiences about the class material. Invite them to be involved in, and appreciate when they do. That very first step would be inspiring enough for them to get interested in the class material, since they received that interest.

      In later classes, s/he could ask the students to bring news related to the class topics, discuss in small groups, then share with large class, do panels, invite guest speakers, and so on.. thousands of ways..

      Yet, above all, the point is as how you mentioned in the beginning: The teacher is the motor force there. If s/he is excited, satisfied, happy to be there, the students will feel that..

      Reply
  2. Jacob Metch

    I think we’ve all had a class like the one you mention. As I was reading your post I couldn’t help but think of how sad it is that we paid for such classes. It’s partially our fault for not caring about the class enough to go, and the instructors fault for not teaching in a way that convinced us to go to class. For both sides, you can only get so much as you put in. Just as we didn’t get anything out of those classes because we didn’t put in any effort, I’m sure the professor didn’t get anything out of teaching a boring class that we blew off.

    Reply
  3. daa1815

    I do love the Pink Floyd reference, although since you used it I could not….
    Ah well.
    A quick answer would be to eliminate large classes. Easy enough, right?
    The “significance problem” – students finding difficulty in finding significance in their education.
    Undergraduates that are not finding education, or “school,” relevant to their lives.
    Why do students go to college? To learn?
    To get a better job than they would without having gone to, and graduated from, a college or university?
    Is, as Michael Wesch suggests, the environment more important than the content, or lesson? Should teachers be more managers than educators?
    Significance – what is our great crisis? Apathy? We in this country are not faced with crisis of necessity.
    To pull from another pop culture source:
    “We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression – our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’ll all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact.” – T. Durden
    How do we make learning significant for students with no sense of self-purpose? No sense of significance?
    Is engineering the answer? A nontraditionally designed room? A clever arrangement of desks?
    Bandages.
    Until students apply for higher education, attend class, read materials, because they want to learn, better themselves, and not because they want, and can get, a job one step above deep-frying factory-breaded poultry, I don’t think much will change.
    Then again, I am a bit of a cynic.

    Reply
  4. Rabih

    Liked the article. We’ve all experienced that at some point, and maybe multiple times.
    Btw, the song does not exactly have to do with the article. It was written in other circumstances and had a different meaning from what you think, but I like it and can’t complain if you included it :).

    Reply

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