Monday, January 24, 2011

How To Get Students To Think About Graduate School

Guest Blogger: Murali Balaji

One of the most interesting transitions I've made in my year-and-a-half at Lincoln is adjusting my teaching approach to students' expectations. Most of my mass communications majors don't give graduate study a second thought, focusing instead on the quickest way to a job.

But in adjusting my approach, I've also been able to get some students to get interested in graduate study. For me, the best method is getting students excited about topical discussions, especially those that get them to think deeply about answers.

In classrooms, especially larger lectures, some students feel uncomfortable expressing their thoughts. Many usually wait for one person to lead, but once a discussion begins, it develops into provocative and stimulating discourse. In mass communications classes, many contemporary issues can be tied to theories, allowing students to more quickly make the connection between theoretical abstract and practice.

As a result, more students are asking whether the kinds of discussions they have in class are what they can expect in graduate school. I tell them that the conversations at Lincoln barely scratch the surface of graduate discussion but that they are a good starting point.

Last year, a number of students asked for extra reading materials that they thought would help them prepare for graduate school. Some admitted that their families were encouraging them to find jobs, or that they were intimidated by the idea of graduate work.

This is where we as educators can help facilitate both the "A-ha" moment and the "can-do" attitude. By being responsive to their concerns and asking them for feedback on critical readings, we are helping to change their perspectives on learning beyond their undergraduate years.

I have also tried to connect students to scholars outside of Lincoln, at least so that they feel like they're not learning in a bubble. When we interact with our students constantly, some of our motivational techniques tend to wear thin on them. That's why a fresh perspective is welcome. In December, I had my dissertation adviser speak at Lincoln, and when he did, he met with several students interested in graduate school but concerned about the steps to getting admitted.

After his visit, a couple of students said they were now excited about the graduate school application process. For me, that's two down, many more young minds to go.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck! I hope your approach works as well or better than others! For me, it's the critical thinking that matters.