Editor's Note, Volume 22 Number 3

People learn in such different ways. I envy folks who can simply read a book about something and understand it and be able to go out and do it. I learn best when I’m show, so I like examples. The many “quick hits” in the little book from Indiana’s FACET group offer the kind of practical examples that both encourage and motivate me. I hope it’s the same for you. For example (speaking of examples), I never would have thought of using “clickers” in humanities courses, but I began to see how it might be done and done well in one of these “quick hits.”

By now most faculty have heard of “clickers.” In this issue David S. Goldstein, University of Washington Bothell, explores how using these devices can help faculty find out what students are thinking and engage them more actively in the learning being promoted in the classroom. Wide participation, greater honesty, and less teeth pulling(i.e., quicker response) rank among the biggest pluses in using them.

Encouraging engagement and deepening the learning in a population of students bombarded and distracted by an explosion of media presents a huge challenge for today’s faculty. Monika Raesch, Suffolk University, decided to literally make the medium the message. Instead of lecturing about film and various theories of narrative, she decided to structure her entire course like a movie. She started with a basic idea, a couple of student actors to star in story, and she was off. When she stopped the prepared movie stub and the lights came up, the class understood they’d be taking it from there, applying the theories they were studying to where their narrative should go next. And the movie grew and changed through the semester as their learning evolved. Raesch surely put a lot of work into this course, but will the students ever forget what they learned or the example of such a committed teacher?

The authors of the FORUM’s new CREATIVITY CAFÉ column would surely applaud the creativity of Raesch’s teaching and, I suspect, see how it also taught creativity without that being her overt intention. Their column in this issue points out that that same media sea current students emerge from has them searching for familiar waters rich in creative possibility. Faculty’s challenge lies in encouraging their creativity while showing them the place of critical thinking in the process.

Can teaching be fun? Can it ever be funny? Most faculty bridle at pressure to add humor to their teaching, but most also think they have good senses of humor. Jack Lachman, Brooklyn College, reminds readers that research shows students feel more at ease and learn more in classes where humor figures are part of the instruction. Lachman teaching accounting, an area not known for humor, but it can be found, he says, and applied to good effect. But more than the lubrication humor offers to learning accounting principles, Lachman points out that in incorporating humor into the teaching of professional subjects like accounting, faculty present good professional role models. In the real world, students will find that getting along with others, being able to make (and take) a joke is important to their success.

Finally, Marilla Svinicki’s AD REM . . . looks at the shifting mix of goals faculty carry into the classroom. It’s a mix not unlike the one churning their students—mastery, performance, failure avoidance. There’s a place for each of these, she suggests. The challenge lies in getting the mix right and not being dominated by one.

—James Rhem

Access the full issue of National Teaching and Learning Volume 22 Number 3, March 2013 here.