The final blog of this academic year will be short but—I hope—interesting enough to make you think a bit over the summer as you are developing/redeveloping your courses for next fall. The focus comes from a fascinating podcast with Ken Bains, author of What the Best College Teachers Do.
I highly recommend the podcast: http://teachinginhighered.com/podcast/ken-bain/
Bains talks of the importance of allowing students to embrace failures, of giving them lots of do-overs before they actually get a grade, and of stimulating their interest by involving them in a discussion of a “big question” that draws them into your course, whether that course be a gen ed requirement or a capstone in a major. He agrees that we need to set high standards, but that doesn’t mean just setting the bar high and telling students to jump over it or else; instead, our role is to help students learn by trying and failing and trying again, having learned a little from each previous failure. And, most importantly, we have to develop an environment in which students want to keep trying. Bains believes that learning won’t take place until we cultivate “deep intentions” in students, the desire to answer a big question because the answer to that question is important in their life outside of class.
Good teaching, Bains argues, involves having students answer questions or solve problems that they find intriguing, interesting, or beautiful.
How do we do that even in an intro to math or economics or art or composition course? What is the “beautiful question” that drew you into your discipline that you can help students want to consider, and answer, for your course?