A professor of mine recently griped about a fellow colleague who proposed a radical form of lecturing in which he would enter the class and ask his students, “what do you want to know?” The professor who relayed this to the class found the idea completely absurd and thought it to be a terrible way of teaching, saying something to the effect of “we professors are not banks of information to be tapped into for the benefit of our students!” Weighing the implications of both propositions, I must disagree with the professor who has a problem with this form of teaching.
While instructors should have a well-organized lesson plan to instruct and elicit discussion from their classes, their students should come to class eager to learn and full of questions on the subject they chose to sign up for. I will grant that (as many, MANY posts on this blog have shown) a great deal of students take classes simply because they are required and they have absolutely no ambition in these courses other than to pass. Yet for those of us who are genuinely interested in the course (if this rare cohort still exists), we should come to classes full of questions that will either elucidate our understanding of material we find confusing or argue against points made by the prolific authors’ works we have read.
The problem with instituting either method is, however, full of problems that no simple solution can alleviate. Let’s take the situations one at a time then, first dealing with the inquisitive professor. If any student signed up for a class because they were truly interested in it, should they not come to class fully prepared to ask and answer questions to either gain a better understanding of material or to challenge an author’s propositions? If so, a professor opening a lecture or discussion in this manner should be totally acceptable, but the more realistic case is subsequently discussed.
You may, at this point, be wondering what the problem is with not reading material since a professor will lecture and give you all the information you need to know without reading, right? A valid proposition since this allows nearly any attentive student to “skate by” in most of their classes. The problems arise in several areas. Is your professor engaging? If not, do you even pay attention in class, or spend most of it texting, facebooking, angrybirding, or anything else NOT academically related?
At this point, I believe we are at an impasse. The real question boils down to this: who do you rely on for your education? You, or your professor? In addition, who is responsible for your education? Consider your answers and your use of “should” when you evaluate these questions. I look forward to the responses.
In any feedback that follows this post, I implore the readers to candidly confess how much reading they truly complete for their classes, keeping in mind that these posts are anonymous. I’m not interested in explanations for not completing assignments because explanations are not excuses. I simply want to know how many people truly do the work they are assigned. This will give an insight into why it is that the “ask me questions” method of any professor does not work. I’ll leave my own level of preparedness out of this so as to not prime any answers, and I hope all are answered truthfully (there’s no stigma here, people!). The point of this is to show that if you are not prepared, you cannot participate, either with intelligent questions or insightful comments, and whether the responsibility lies with the professor or the student.