Similar to Brookfield, I too have spent far too much energy on trying to understand if students are resisting to learn, or why is it they simply don’t learn at the same rate. Each term starts out exactly the same, lecturing for days on end and being convinced by their attitude and responses that THIS class will be the best ever! It is always a bit of a shock when the first test marks come back and as always, two people have pass marks, two to three have 100%, and the rest are 85-95%. I can also never predict who the top and bottom mark students are unless I have taught them previously or heard their name spoken in the staff room.
It was refreshing to know that Brookfield suggests that this resistance to learning is stubborn and persistent, like a stained garment caused by factors totally outside our control. I believe students have just as many issues outside the class as we all do and that we can’t always expect that they will be putting in 100% of their energy into this class. Students who must work during the 10 week schedule is the largest influence on grades and understanding.
Blessed by the fact that my students have chosen waited a year to get in and paid for their seat in class I have the advantage over most general classrooms. I do have a huge range of learning abilities in class to deal with and often helping the struggling student in the first week proves to be the best action I can take. Our classes are all progressive, taking the last weeks material and building on that material. If a student was to do very poorly in the first week, they would have a very difficult time in subsequent weeks. I offer after class help for those students and constantly repeat the basics needed to move on in the program. Using exit ticket strategies also helps to flag those students who need extra coaxing to stay after class. It is far less work for me to have everyone at close to the same level of comprehension.
Brookfield also states the importance of sharing learning objectives and how they can be used in students’ lives is imperative if resistance is to be minimised. Giving personal examples and asking other students their experiences of how these new concepts relate to the job is the simplest way to achievement. There are though theories being taught that are not the greatest examples to use. My plan of action for these topics is to say they are one of the few hoops we all need to jump through to move along in the program. One day perhaps one student in the class may actually use this, but not likely. There is a 100% chance that the material will be on the test so memorize the material! Combining this material with examples of how to memorize them is helpful.
The normal rhythm of learning is explained by Brookfield as a pattern of two steps forward, one step back as material is learned. The volume of new material and concepts is often overwhelming to comprehend. In the class when the topic is being discussed, students are able to follow the complex path of enlightenment by and complete in class assignments. Once they leave the room and return to their natural surroundings where these new concepts and topics don’t fit in to conversation, students return the next day confused how they forgot so quickly! Being sure that they leave each day with step by step examples and not just answers is imperative to the success of their learning.
Brookfields’ discussion of the disjunction of learning and teaching style was for me quite enlightening. Personally I am extremely hesitant of having to stand up and introduce myself in front of strangers or worse yet engaging in ice breaker sessions when I am taking a class. Strangely I have no problem at all being the only person who must stand up in front of 32 strangers and introducing myself as an instructor! Accepting the fact that I am not alone with this discomfort I never subject student to this painful process, but pose questions that encourage class participation. In class examples on the board using numerical suggestions from my audience, students quickly accept the fact that I don’t know the answers as they are being compiled by the class, forcing them to shout out the answers not knowing that they may be incorrect. We use these mistakes as further examples of how “alternate facts/answers” (Conway, 2017) are created for multiple choice questions and how to avoid these mistakes.
Students’ dislike of teachers is as Brookfield mentions, a difficult one to contemplate. Surprisingly our faculty has a great example of this topic. So disliked by students that it is common for them to ask before registering if this teacher will be possibly be presenting this class before committing to payment. It is painful to overhear students complain about this one person, as the faculty as a whole is a wonderful collection of professionals. Professionally I cannot comment on the topic to them, but do remind them of what I tell them on the first day of class if they have problems with other students, the material being presented or college faculty. It is unfortunate that these students must be subjected to his methods of torture. The college is working with both students and this instructor to improve relations. Most of us are fortunate to have students request to be in our classes.
Brookfield, S.D., (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
Conway, K.A. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/kellyanne-conway-sean-spicer-alternative-facts-lies-press-briefing-donald-trump-administration-a7540441.html