Monday, July 9, 2012

A Lecture on the Art of Lecturing: A How-To Guide to Teaching Young People

Students are heading to university (Flickr/iwouldstay)
by Rohan Price, Lecturer at University of Tasmania, The Conversation: 

Narcissistic, lazy, and overly confident – this is the way some see the new generation of young people starting to go to our universities.

According to teacher Lynn Van Der Wagan, who sparked an online debate recently with this article, members of “Generation I” form strong opinions without enough knowledge and are reluctant to work.

Reactions to her article - mostly in agreement - came in thick and fast. As I take an interest in who will be next in my class, Van Der Wagan’s provocation has prompted a few thoughts of my own on how to approach teaching this new generation.

A new breed

Be assured, I do not see the current crop of Australian tertiary students through rose-tinted glasses. But I am certain that “young people these days” do make their teachers better.

While some students may expect effusive praise, they usually get prompt feedback. While some may wish to give their opinion unchallenged, they do get corrective engagement which all the class can learn from. In expecting respect and responsiveness “young people these days” have put the onus on their lecturers to do a half-decent job.

I would hope that tertiary students are not shamed or discouraged by their lecturers during their studies. But that they do not always feel happy as learners is not necessarily cause for concern; this is often a sign that learning is happening.

Shameful learning

Everyone seems to remember the 1990s as the time when political correctness reached its zenith in universities. But the shaming of students that used to go on in those days seems unbelievable to me now.
Not everyone's a fan of lectures (Flickr/Tadeej).

When I was an undergraduate student in the early 1990s, I was in a tutorial where after five minutes of silence a student summoned courage to make a point.

The lecturer instead of encouraging the student or making a constructive comment, just told the student that what he had said was “absolute rubbish.”

On another occasion, in a lecture where the students were clearly unprepared, the lecturer launched off with: “This isn’t kindergarten you know; we aren’t here to run around in circles all day”.

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