Why should students be blamed for not paying attention in class?


bored-student1

In the past few years, an overwhelming amount of students have displayed declining interests in classroom subjects. I believe that this is a very big problem for Generation Y’ers because school shouldn’t be boring! Even I will admit that I tune out of class sometimes if I am not happy with subject’s material. This in-class “dazing” occurs a lot at Bucknell (more than you’d wish so).

I think I speak on behalf of the student body when I say that we have all definitely had a fair share of good and bad teachers during our times at Bucknell. While having a good teacher can make class an enjoyable learning experience, having a “boring” teacher can possibly be one of the worst Bucknell experiences. The worst part about having a boring teacher isn’t the fact that learning material is difficult, but that the teacher will most likely blame students for “dazing” in class.

To address this issue, I think that Bucknell must create a survey that evaluates the “interesting-ness” of classes. This means finding out which teachers are deemed “more boring” than others. After this survey is taken by the student body, Bucknell can identify the teachers who struggle to gain student attention in class. Following the identification process, Bucknell would speak to the specific professors about better ways to involve their students in class. Not only could the school create a guide to support this initiative, but it could also have “boring” teachers observe classes that students find most interesting. This would be a very effective way of showing professors how to better interact and teach students so that the students receive the best education possible. Who knows? Maybe there could be webinar events in the future that would allow “boring” professors to observe “interesting” professors in the comfort of their own homes!

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8 thoughts on “Why should students be blamed for not paying attention in class?

  1. This is a really interesting idea. I think it’s important for professors to find ways to engage students in class and find the most effective ways to teach. Most people would agree that students learn the most in classes that are interesting. However, I don’t think this is completely the responsibility of the professors. So many students act like going to class is a chore. But the truth is, we are likely to have this opportunity to learn. Students should take more of the responsibility in finding motivation to go to class and staying engaged. We can do this by finding majors and classes that interest us and that we will continue to want to learn more. It’s a great feeling to love what you learn, but this is something that at some point, students need to find within themselves.

  2. Do you think the current end of course evaluation forms do not get at that capacity to captivate? They are reviewed carefully. When we are at our 2nd, 4th, and 6th years, we are heavily evaluated in terms of teaching, research,and service to the school.

    Common outcomes of critical reviews, before dismissing a professor, include suggestions like yours. Visit the classrooms of effective teachers, ask the Teaching and Learning Center to visit your class, attend the numerous workshops and programs run here on topics like technology in the classroom, making yoru classroom exciting and so on.

    Does rate my professor not fill the gap you have identified?

    Can we trust students to rate teachers? What if your idea of ‘interesting” meant “easy to get an A?” Is that good or bad?

    What if good teachers in terms of student learning are not particularly “interesting”?

    • I think students are reliable for evaluations, as they are the other end of the class room interaction. I do not think one time visit from Teaching and Learning Center can ultimately expose teachers’ weakness in teaching, as they usually will put more effort in class if there are people visiting. It is true that students may not be that objects than other individuals, as teachers are usually, somehow, on the opposite side to students. But I believe that if a teacher is good enough, he/she will get good view no matter what. And if students do not like a teacher in particular, there must be a reason as well.

  3. I sounded like I was throwing more cold water on your idea than I meant to.

    What would you define as the qualities of a captivating teacher?

  4. What about course evaluations that we do at the end of every course we take? There is a space for students to write whatever they want about the professor. I also agree with Michaela about the point that students nowadays are just not as interested in learning as they used to be. I think part of this has to do with a shift in our culture with college educations becoming more common. Previously, when not as many people had the opportunity to attend college, the ones that did were probably more grateful for their experience and were therefore more excited to learn. But, now that college degrees are more common, I think some people really take them for granted. I’m not saying this applies to everyone because it certainly does not, but it is definitely true for some people.

    I think Professor Comas also brings up a great point about how effective student evaluations can truly be. If a professor is extremely thought provoking and leads interesting classes every day but is a really harsh grader and it is almost impossible to get an A in their class, will they receive good ratings? Or will the pushover professors that give over half the class A’s be ranked as the more “interesting” professor just because they are easy graders? Lots to think about…

    • I promise you we, faculty, think and talk (and talk and talk) about these issues a lot in terms of end of the semester evaluations.

      However, those are all in the context of end of course evaluations (and also the letters that are solicited from former students as part of our reviews. You may have been asked to do that in the past).

      Still, John’s point, partly, I think, is that students don’t have access to their own information about ratings of professors. And, while that may make me feel a little anxious, it is also notable that the University does NOT provide that.

      The protectiveness of faculty of our prerogatives is evident in how we do not make such information available to students. There are good and less good reasons for this. One of the good ones is that it can be a slippery slope to turn the student-professor relationship into one that is purely client-service provider. Our very ability to be autonomous in our research and teaching depends in part on our status as professionals. If insta-poll ratings that were public could drive students away from enrolling or to me being fired, then I would teach so differently that it would not necessarily be good for students.

      Still, students have rights and interests and if they self-organized to address what is interesting or less-interesting teaching, I, personally, would welcome such engagement in your education.

      A small example is that total lack of information you have to pick classes. I don’t’ understand why banner can’t look more like Amazon. I could post my syllabus, sample readings, assignments, and so on so students could see what the class is like when they are picking.

      Some of my colleagues maybe don’t like that level of information, or feel it would open up arms races for enrollment. Maybe. But I think it is shameful how little information we give you about courses and professsors before you pick classes.

      But, even if I wanted to burn some political capital to address this, and likely aggravate some colleagues, I wouldn’t get very far without organized and smart student voices on my side.

  5. I completely agree with Jordi’s critique of the lack of information provided on Banner Web. When I go to select a class, I first consult my academic adviser for the right class to take to fulfill my graduation requirements. Then from there, I search through Banner Web, which itself is a confusing, Excel-like chart of random numbers (CCN, CCCs, CCRs = Creedence Clearwater Revival?) Sometimes I do not know if I’m looking at a course that fulfills environmental connects, diversity or a lab science. Then, when I click on the course information, the profile typically features a vague description of the course topic. Are they plucked from the first sentence of “Macroeconomics” in Wikipedia?

    So, Banner Web can be better. Enough with my rant.

    The blog is very interesting. it also ties in Xin’s post about how professors should not necessarily need PHDs to teach college-level courses. Some of my favorite teachers are the ones that question general knowledge and develop a friendly rapport with me. My approval of them depends somewhat less on their grading styles.

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