As I have mentioned on my last two postings, I will be part of a panel discussion on April 17, 2015, in Asheville, NC, at the Southeast Regional Meeting of the American Accounting Association. I am thrilled to be joined by three great teachers: Lynn Clements of Florida Southern, Eric Bostwick of the University of West Florida, and Scott Showalter of North Carolina State.
We are planning to have a simple conversation about some of the most basic issues in teaching. I am very much interested in knowing how other teachers deal with the challenges that I seem to face every day in my classroom. I have long believed that we need a more open exchange of ideas if college education is going to improve as it must.
I am not sure what questions we will end up discussing in Asheville but here are ten that we are considering.
How would you answer each of these questions? There are no right or wrong answers here but these are wonderful questions for each of us to consider as we work to help more of our students become better educated and more deeply thinking individuals.
(1) – (This first question here is directed toward accounting education but it probably applies to almost any academic area from history to Shakespeare to philosophy.) Any time there is a student comment about an accounting course, the initial response is that the topic is extremely dry. Many students seem to walk into accounting classes on the first day with the firm belief that they are going to be painfully bored by the material (which can become a self-fulfilling prophecy). ("Accounting is going to be sooooo dull.") How do you make your classes interesting and enjoyable for your students?
(2) – I write a blog about teaching and I recently reported that I had surveyed my students on the characteristics of great teaching. The number one characteristic according to my students was: “Great teachers motivate and inspire students. They set high standards and challenge their students to reach those goals.” One student wrote “Any teacher with a degree can teach, but it takes a great teacher to get into the hearts of his or her students and inspire them. Great teachers inspire their students to do great things.” Okay, how do you motivate and inspire your students?
(3) – Every book on teaching will tell you that the best learning comes about when students are actively engaged. However, many students seem to prefer to sit very quietly and take notes (or daydream). I sometimes refer to them as stenographer students. How do you get students to be engaged and interactive in class?
(4) – I once wrote an essay titled “What do you want on your tombstone?” In this essay, I asked teachers how they wanted to be remembered by their students. How do you want to be remembered?
(5) – What is your biggest challenge as a teacher?
(6) – I am a big believer that a teacher should always know what he or she wants to achieve in a class or the class will tend to drift around in a random fashion. Think of your favorite course to teach. How do you want your students to be different on the last day of the semester? What impact do you want to have on your students?
(7) – I obsessively believe that one of the most important keys to a great class is student preparation. If students walk in unprepared (as they often seem to want to do), there is only a limited amount that they can add to class discussion. Almost by definition, they are limited to being quiet and taking notes because they don’t come in with the knowledge needed to make a legitimate contribution. How do you get students to prepare before arriving at class?
(8) – I have often said that "the way you test is the way students will learn." For them, every day is preparation for the next test. Schools often claim that their primary goal is to help students develop critical thinking skills. But, testing is often based on memorization so students tend to focus on memorization. Some of the students probably learned this strategy in middle school and high school. In this age of Google, memorization has few benefits. How do you test your students? Is your testing geared toward critical thinking skills?
(9) – In every aspect of life, good communication is important so that everyone is on the same page. Do you have any particular ways that you communicate with your students?
(10) – Students often leave class each day thinking they know the material. I recently read a book that stated that students almost always over value what they know. I tell my students that they actually leave class each day with “Swiss-cheese” knowledge. It looks solid but it is really full of holes. How do you help students realize their knowledge has holes and then how do you help them plug those holes?
Would love to see you in the audience in Asheville helping us come up with answers to these ten essential questions.