All of us have felt the excitement of teaching courses in our major field to students who know why they are there and who want to learn that subject. That’s the part of teaching that reminds us why we chose this profession in the first place (certainly it wasn’t for the pay…) But what about when we teach gen ed or other courses to students who have to be there but don’t necessarily want to be there?
Julianne Hazen, in an interesting Faculty Focus article on this topic, suggests that our goals in such situations must include establishing value, building on previous knowledge, addressing expectations, and giving the students freedom of choice within the assignments. She offers three guidelines to consider:
- Use active learning techniques rather than overwhelming students with long reading assignments; students get a deeper and more engaged learning experience if they read a short article and then explore some topic in it in a short reflection paper.
- Invite guest speakers so that students can see and interact with people who can bring the subject to life because it is part of their lives.
- Go on field trips. Setting foot in a museum, a science laboratory, a social service agency, a church, gets students’ emotions involved, and deep learning involves emotion.
I’d be interested in hearing from those of you who teach required courses. Have you tried any of the three suggestions? What else do you do that helps make your topic come alive?