A Living Breathing Professor

Wow, where did the summer go. The traditional school year has started. I hit the road running on Monday and haven’t stopped. It is exciting and very fulfilling. Our faculty has been discussing online classes, and are attempting to integrate more technology in our learning events. However, technology can never replace human interaction.

Adam Falk in today’s WSJ argued this point very well. “As classes resume on our nation’s campuses, amid anxiety about high tuition, student debt and other concerns, it’s worth examining what we value in education.” This time of the year I think about what I want the students to get out of my classes, and what I want them to retain, which is why the topic for today’s blog.

One reason I like teaching at WPC is our view of the students. We do not look at the students as numbers, pushing them through their degree program, hoping they become the next Steven Jobs. If they are famous we can say they studied at WPC. The faculty, staff, and administration look at the students as human beings who’s learning is to be facilitated. After reading Falk’s article I have concluded that I agree with his points.

Regarding progress in student learning, Falk proposes that personal contact between the student and faculty is the strongest indicator of the student’s academic growth. “Not virtual contact, but interaction with real, live human beings, whether in the classroom, or in faculty offices, or in the dining halls.” This relationship is critical to the student’s engagement. This conclusion is the result of research accomplished at Williams College, where Falk teaches.

Falk also states, “Nothing else – not the details of the curriculum, not the choice of major, not the student’s GPA – predicts self-reported gains in these critical capacities nearly as well as how much time a student spent with professors.” This affirms what I have always thought, and will continue to do as a professor. I will make myself available to my students.

The tendency in major academic institutions today is the desire to commoditize education. Administrators want our educational processes to be efficient and effective. All of us want our institutions to be financially viable. However, we must never forget that education is first and foremost a social process. “Education is not a commodity. It is a social process, and its value, including its economic value, both to the graduate and to society is unquestionable. It is equally true that this value cannot be reduced to a single number, however the measurers of productivity – or those who rank us in magazines – may wish it otherwise.”

I teach business, and I believe in quantifying results. However, I also believe that life is more than a statistical assumption. Life is about people, and education is about connection.

And that is my thought for the day!


2 thoughts on “A Living Breathing Professor

  1. It seems like the higher we are in education, the more we need to ‘measure’ and ‘quantify’ the learner’s academic growth. At college level, the grade system is inherently designed along with academic programs. The ‘social process’ (human development, personal contact, educational approach, etc.) is 100% emphasized only wherever education is not obligatory, i.e. at preschool (and maybe kindergarten)!

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