Higher EducationPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Student expectations

When I first started teaching, I stuck to the methods I had encountered in my education.  I initially used primarily lecture and fairly early in my career and because Powerpoint was extremely new and shiny (yes I’m old), I used it as a way to gain student interest.  I never needed it, because I had already outlined the ideas I wanted to express and could recreate almost all the figures I wanted to use by hand if a black- or whiteboard was present, but I used it.

I don’t use technology that much anymore, at least in the classroom.  I use a course management system because it’s convenient for me and the majority of my students, and most of them are very conversant with technology as support devices, with all their ups and downs.  Mostly though my students work in groups on problems in class.  Many of them are surprised by this – they expect me to lecture to them.

Technology is great, and it appears students expect their universities to have it, but what else do they expect?  Lectures aren’t technology based – it’s literally the oldest form of education!

I write a lot about whether what we do in higher education works, how it works, and how the students are part of the package in terms of taking up the responsibility of learning. That comes from the perspective of being a professor for a while now, and my memories of student-hood have faded somewhat.  I do know that my undergraduate education was pretty much exactly how I imagined it would be though.  I was in huge lecture halls with hundreds of others, all frantically taking down everything the prof said (no powerpoint then…).

My teaching changed over time though as more and more evidence showed that lecture is as not effective for most sciecne students compared to pretty much any form of active learning, where students have to do something during the class period, in terms of performance as measured by grades.  The meta analysis cited in the last link showed no effect of pretty much anything like class size or type of student (common concerns among faculty reluctant to use active learning), only the use of some kind of active learning vs lecture.

And yet, students still expect to be lectured at and often are upset if they don’t get it.  How did this happen?  I ask especially because I understand high schools don’t use lecture all the time any more than most small colleges do.  Active learning is also not some shiny new invention either.  So how did this become the cultural default idea of college?

Here’s my question to you: what do modern students expect in the classroom?  How can we change their expectations (and should we)?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoon (ET)

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Apostrophobia is a college professor at a women's college in the US. She teaches biology, does pedagogical research on her guinea pigs (aka students), and has an existential fear of misplaced apostrophes.

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