Taking Simon’s recent post about encouraging student feedback in a different direction:
Yes, students often perceive and understand differently than I do, and I agree that removing barriers to their acquisition of knowledge as an important part of my job. But in many cases students are as different from one another as they are from me, and some of them are simply not interested in learning.
For example, I’m still using the Quality of Failure essay in all my courses as an end-of-semester exercise in meta-cognitive reflection. Compare these quotes from essays written by two students in a course that just ended:
“When I realized that we only really went over the homework in class, I mentally decided that I didn’t really want to participate because I had already written my response and it had already been graded.”
“While I feel that I have achieved my goal of learning about new populations, I also feel that this was achieved for other reasons than what I previously mentioned. For instance, the one thing that I never really took into consideration was the fact that discussions with my peers would end up being the most influential factor in learning what I did this semester.”
The first student decided early on that she would learn nothing from hearing about the perspectives of her peers during classroom discussions, while the second student was surprised to find that this aspect of the course was by far the most valuable.
The pedagogical “experts” might say that I should meet all students where they are and adjust to all the ways in which students define their interests. But I refuse to accommodate those who are too close-minded to try something that challenges their own view of themselves.