Friday, September 11, 2009

"Why has it taken so long?"

Yesterday, the five teams were working on assigned projects and I was drifting among them answering questions or providing clarification. (I do seem to have abundant opportunities for clarification, probably a function of my errant belief that I communicate clearly.) During this working time, I sat down with one of the teams and responded to a question about why I'd made a specific assignment.

My general approach to questions is to be as honest and transparent as possible, so I explained my thought process for designing the project the way I had. I braced for the expected refutation (why it was more work than necessary, for example) and was momentarily stunned to hear the follow-up question: "Why has it taken so long to figure out that this is the way we prefer to learn?"

If ambivalence is the simultaneous experience of both positive and negative feelings, my reaction would qualify. It's thrilling to hear at least one student say she feels heard and challenged in this way. It's disheartening to hear how unusual this seems to her.

Every professor I know genuinely wants to reach his or her students and devotes considerable time and energy to teaching. We seem to need more dialog between ourselves and our students, as we really do have the same goals, I think, of engaged, motivated, and well educated students.

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