Teaching and students: with them or for them?

Commission member Kristan Venegas of the University of Southern California sent me a link to an interesting article from the Teaching Professor blog.  Authored by Maryellen Weimer, the article is titled “Learning with Students vs. Doing for Students.”  In it, Professor Weimer is commenting on a quote she heard from a colleague:  ““I see myself as a learner first, thus I create my classes with learners, not for them.”  Interesting idea, right?  We hear a lot in higher education about focusing our classes on “learning,” rather than “teaching.”  Of course, it’s not a dichotomy, but a continuum.

Professor Weimer’s exploration of the idea is realistic and balanced.  She recognizes that, while some courses may allow us to determine content, assessment tools and classroom activities, we’re often constrained as educators with respect to all three.  Thinking about my own discipline (accounting), there are just some things that must be included in courses, whether I / my students find them interesting & compelling or not.  And, the same is true in other fields.  Nevertheless, designing courses with students in mind is a sound and common practice; each time I deliver a course, I make changes to it based on “what worked” and “what didn’t work” with students.

Since advising is a form of teaching, the same ideas hold true in our interactions with the students we advise.  In those cases, however, it’s a bit simpler to co-create based on an individual student’s concerns.  I invite you, either in the comments below or on the Faculty Advising commission listserv, to comment on the ideas in the article.  For example, what steps do you take, either in your classes and / or in your advising interactions, to co-create with students?  For students?  If you’re not already subscribed to the listserv, you’ll find directions for doing so here.

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