I read The College Fear Factor: How Students and Professors Misunderstand One Another (Cox, 2009) back in October, and it really resonated with me. In particular, Cox identified that most college students have a preconceived notion of what a college classroom is “supposed” to look like. And that idea is a professor standing in the front of the room lecturing at students. Numerous studies have shown that lecturing is not a very effective way to transmit knowledge; as we learned in a previous TAP seminar, students retain less than 10% of what they hear in a lecture. So it would seem obvious that we as instructors would want to void this passive model of learning as much as possible.
There’s a problem, though. Even though we know that peer-to-peer learning and group activities are much more effective for learning and retention, students will complain that “the teacher didn’t teach me anything!” This can be particularly problematic when such comments appear on a teacher’s SEIQs. It all goes back to this perception of how college classes are supposed to be. So what are we as instructors to do?
One instructor with whom I work deals with this on the first day of his class. As he goes over the syllabus with his students, he explains to them that numerous studies have shown that students learn better and return more when they are more actively involved in peer-to-peer learning. He then poses a question to his students: Do they want to do the traditional lectures, which are shown to be less effective, or would they like to try peer-to-peer learning? So far, every class of his has responded that they want to try peer-to-peer group work. The students have a say in how they will be taught, and the instructor has not had to deal with “he didn’t teach me anything”-type snark.
Since I decided to flip my classroom this term, I struggled with how to deal with these student perceptions of what constitutes college learning. I decided to record my own lectures in my own voice, as suggested by Bergmann & Sams (2012). Hopefully my students will realize, since it’s my voice in the lectures, that I am still the one teaching them. I’ll know for sure whether or not this worked when I see my SEIQ results at the end of the term.
Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. Eugene, Or.: International Society for Technology in Education.
Cox, R. D. (2009). The college fear factor: How students and professors misunderstand one another. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.