Participation and pedagogy

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2 Responses

  1. Deven Desai says:

    It seems Dan’s points about Live and Let Live relate to this post. While one may want students to be prepared because of internal motivations, many may not be prepared for a range of reasons (e.g., failed to read, illness, death in family, etc.). The idea that the classroom and the discussion may not reach some sort of peak experience for the listening students because the other student is not prepared or may not have understood the material well enough to generate insight seems to miss part of the opportunity for the listener. The listner should follow along with the professor and see where the discussion heads. Even if the professor takes time to push the other student in his or her thoughts, the listener should hopefully be able to glean some insights on how to think about the basics of the case and learn how to identify the important items in the future. In addition, when a student claims that he or she does not benefit from other’s participation, I wonder whether they think that if called on the contribution would be superior and benefit all or whether they believe class should be pure lecture. It could be that some students just prefer lecture (or dread public speaking).

    The ego boost concept makes little sense to me though I have heard the idea from students. I don’t think most professors are sadists who take glee in showing how a student who has just learned material is inferior to the person who has years of training and experience. That personality may exist in the profession but to Dan’s point forcing students to engage for one’s ego will not work. Thus the blend of ways to present the material accomplishes a few things. As Kaimi notes, students receive the material in a variety of ways which may lead to a larger group understanding the material. Furthermore, by opening the discussion and requiring some level of participation, students learn how to engage with the material orally. Last by balancing the ways students intereact and taking Dan’s approach, one may create an environment that engourages students to take risks such as articulating creative questions about the material and creative arguments about the issue at hand where they should feel most free to do so: in the classroom so they and their classmates can learn from the experience.

  2. Cranky says:

    In my experience most students who say that they don’t benefit from hearing other students speak are talking about comments that other students volunteer during discussion. Most opinions that students volunteer in free-form discussions are ignorant, inarticulate, wrong, confused, or malicious, and often several of the above. When students complain about other students’ contributions, they are usually asking professors to keep a tighter leash on the class. Paradoxically, asking more questions tends to reduce these problems, becaue it keeps the gunners and the clueless from raising their hands to volunteer. A good Socratic conversation beats listening to one’s classmates yammer, because the professor can keep a tight enough leash on student answers to keep them from wandering into deep blather.