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Schools of thought: teachers vs. students


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Ella Peterson
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By Ella Peterson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 9, 2005
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We are the new generation of scholar, an undergraduate class struggling to fit computer-sculpted minds into an old-fashioned educational structure many find to be outdated. Indeed, it is an interesting culture clash: those professors who cling to old-school concepts of instruction and learning, and the students of a generation used to consuming knowledge with efficiency, speed and brevity.

The connection between professor and student is a balancing act that never seems to be perfectly equalized. The burden of creating an enthusiastic dedication for classes frequently falls upon shoulders already bent with carrying heavy textbooks and financial struggle. It is a reciprocal relationship, however, and many professors are not holding up their end of the balance with the zeal and educational enthusiasm that students should be able to expect at a university.

Certain methods of instruction have proved again and again to be less than intellectually stimulating. Lectures are indeed that: students simply being addressed, informed and spoken to. This is a monotony compounded by information-dense reading requisites, upward of hundreds of pages per night per class.

It is a familiar, widespread speculation among students about whether many professors really understand that theirs are not the only classes being taken, nor is school even the sole demand on student time. Anthropology senior Chelsea Kappeler has a significant amount of readings in all of her classes this semester, and said "I frequently get the impression they are oblivious to the fact we have other academic commitments."

This oversaturation of information and excessive reliance on bulky readings leads to cutting corners; homework becomes a situation of survival of the most vital. Students are not lazy or unwilling to learn; they simply must work within the boundaries of logistics. Unnecessary busywork, with no clear value in the arc of the class, is frustrating to those who barely manage to get everything done as it is.

Professors should pick and choose their sources judiciously, focusing on key aspects of their subject and illuminating for their students a more comprehensive understanding. Careful choice of materials does not necessarily equate to a less thorough education on a subject, but rather could be considered a sacrifice of expertise for appreciation.

Students are calling for awareness and changes in their professors; they ask for the kind of environment in which they can get the most from their education.

Professors could benefit greatly from having a command of the technology offered as tools for teaching. Each incoming freshman class is more immersed in the electronic world, to the point where essential learning styles have changed extensively from the days of exclusively paper notes and test scores being posted on classroom doors.

Online class hubs can provide discussion space, class notes and extra resources to busy students. Notes being available online eliminate some of the pressure of writing, allowing a student to actually focus and absorb the professor's lecture. Blackboard and D2L are two different platforms many professors already utilize extensively, to the great benefit of their students, and their spreading use can only be beneficial.

To break the monotonous rhythm of conventional class structure, professors can integrate different mediums of instruction. Videos put a face to a particular point discussed in class, newspaper articles or media clips can drive home a connection to the so-called real world, physical demonstration of a difficult concept can make it more engaging and easily grasped.

Above all, however, students respond to excitement and passion. If a professor is not interested in the way he or she teaches the class, students cannot create interest from nothing.

"The best kind of teachers are the teachers that love what they do," said pre-business freshman Alison Burnette. Enthusiasm begets enthusiasm, and while professors say that students aren't passionate, students complain that professors are disconnected from their needs. The question becomes, then, who will break the cycle of apathy and blame?

Rekindle the light of eagerness in our eyes, professors and instructors. Innovate, initiate, and be aware and receptive. The ultimate goal of the university as an institution - all finances and politics aside - is to educate. It is not to struggle with disinterest and stubborn resistance to change, but rather to cooperatively help students into preparation for success, knowledge of self and specialty, and maybe even a little wisdom.


Ella Peterson is a creative writing junior. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.



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