Let’s Meet Halfway

I’d like to foster a partnership with the students. I envision this as striking a balance between instructor and student responsibility, where the learning environment is the product of both parties’ efforts and engagement.

A starting point could be to have high expectations both for myself and for my students. I will try my best to be prepared for class, to be respectful and fair, to answer questions and offer extra help, but my students are expected to be equally prepared and respectful, and to take charge of their own learning. Perhaps this baseline seems lofty, but I would like to set a common goal that everyone could strive for.

Democratize the classroom, where all parties could have some say on course direction. This does not mean a free-for-all. The instructor should provide a basic framework with supporting rationales, but also allow room for student input and adjustments. This idea came from my Continuum Mechanics professor, who established a baseline method of evaluation for the class but allowed students to decide among themselves how exactly to allocate grades and how many assignments and tests to have. Though students were bummed about having to do tests, they were at least satisfied with the prospect of being able to decide how much the tests mattered in comparison to everything else. I would like my students to have the same feelings of empowerment and the opportunity for collective decision making.

Perhaps fostering a partnership goes beyond the division of responsibility mentioned previously. One of my strengths is being open to different points of views and circumstances, and I could bring this quality to the classroom by treating students as individuals. It seems like a worthwhile effort in establishing a reciprocity, where students could feel like they mattered.

I have reservations of whether this idea of partnership will work, specifically for undergraduate level courses. Thus far, I have only lectured for graduate level classes where the students consisted of my graduate peers. They were already friends, so mutual respect wasn’t hard to come by. They were also graduate students, so they already have some interest in the subject of study and were easy to engage. Doubtful it would be just as easy for undergraduate classes, but I am still willing to try and adjust, if need be. After all, the point is to meet halfway, so both the instructor and the students have to take part in this dynamic…wrestle, push, pull…to create an environment that is unique and meaningful for those involved.