As educators we have all been there when we stand at the front of the class and have to “phone it in.” But, for those of us who relish teaching and think about pedagogy, teaching effectiveness, and the scholarship of teaching and learning, we know that we give more thought to teaching and the attendant points. I feel compelled to share a discussion that I had with my Feminist Political Thought Seminar the other day.We were reading and discussing articles related to reflexive teaching and learning.
I was struck with several things. The first point is that the students sense when an instructor wants to be in the class or is engaged with the material. And, this environment influences their interest in the class and its materials. Likewise, they also notice when an instructor seems disinterested in the material and has less “energy” teaching or interacting with them. I have been thinking about this. Ultimately, I know that I already knew this—most of the students are smart. They know how to “read” the instructor. What I was caught off guard with is this notion that their level of engagement with the course is influenced so heavily by the instructor’s pedagogy. It makes perfect sense, but to hear so many repeat these points—really stayed with me.
Boring material can be revitalized by an instructor, yes, makes sense. But, great material can also be marred by a less than enthusiastic instructor.
The points that the students kept on making also spoke to feeling like they were more than a number in the classroom. They wanted the instructor to speak to them. They also want to have a personal connection—so that they knew that the instructor cared about their opinions or their work. The students noted how helpful office hour consultations are with an instructor. But, I wonder what else is helpful. Is it the quick hallway conversation after class or a thoughtful response to one of their email queries? I’m still thinking about our discussion and will post more in the next part of this discussion.