Ultimately, it is every instructor’s goal to facilitate learning. On a superficial level, I aim to promote learning of the material that is the focus of the course. On a deeper level, I aim for my students to improve upon their learning strategies so that they are better prepared for a lifetime of learning. To do so, I create learning opportunities that incorporate self-reflection about the learning process.
I administer mid-semester feedback questionnaires as part of this process. In a section of this questionnaire, I ask the students to reflect upon which aspects of the course (readings, group work, in-class activities, exams) help them learn best. On a recent survey, 100% of responding students said that the in-class problems helped them understand the material better while only 30% of students said that the readings helped. This information made me re-consider the readings I had assigned and also gave me an opportunity to discuss reflection upon one’s own learning with my students. When I reviewed the results of the questionnaire with students I explicitly told them to pay attention to their answers for their own benefit. This is an example of how I teach students to recognize how they learn best.
Another aspect of learning that I encourage is that of professional growth. I respect that my students will take the lessons learned in my class with them to a large variety of different careers. All of their careers will require leadership, communication, and analytical skills. I therefore create learning opportunities in these areas for my students. This has the side-effect of many of my students seeking mentoring from me with regard to their career decision-making process. One student in particular articulated to me how much he appreciated the support I gave him:
“I just wanted to say thank you for recommending me as a preceptor last semester. After a semester of learning the behind the scenes coursework, I was asked to teach my own class this semester.
I had my first class yesterday and it went a lot smoother than I had anticipated. I still have a lot to learn, but I wouldn’t be here making progress if it wasn’t for you.
I took some time to think about how I could get where I want and what that is going to require. I took your advice and set my sights on a PhD.
Thank you for everything Erin!”