I just received my student evaluations from Winter Quarter. Perhaps on a more humorous note, the most daunting time of the quarter for any instructor is receiving the (sometimes brutal) honest feedback from students about the course. Spine of Steel Week is what we have unofficially dubbed the process in the faculty office. Usually, comments are constructive and we get an honest insight about the class. Other times, students’ frustration is manifested in the anonymous evaluation. Now, to be honest, I could go into the positive and negative attributes of the evaluation process itself. Yet, I will place that topic on the shelf for another blog entry.
What sparked my interest this quarter was the topic of: Life-long Learning. Can we incorporate pedagogy methods to facilitate the development of life-long learning? Are we able to help students avoid cognitive dissonance? Or, is cognitive dissonance a good thing to ignite a need or desire for cognition? Is there anything that can be done for the student who digs their heels in the classroom floor and throws an internal tantrum when being stretched to learn new things, even as it relates to (gasp). . . philosophy! Would the Vikings have won the Super Bowl? I digress.
An interesting part of being a teacher in higher education is the constant pull to challenge students but make sure that they have enough positive feedback to prevent being turned-off from learning. Answering the million dollar question of ‘can students be influenced to become life-long learners’ may have enough debate to be on the same level of the chicken and the egg argument. New research, however, may provide better insight to help faculty facilitate better teaching methods in the classroom that promote life-long learning.
An extensive three stage study that is much too comprehensive to break down in one blog entry, yet, the depth provides extensive application and reliability to its findings. The study conducted by Mayhew, Wolniak, and Pascarella (2007) consisted of 405 students enrolled within one of five courses. The goal or purpose of the study was to explore “curricular conditions and educational practices that influence the development of life-long learning orientations in tradionally-aged undergraduate students” (p. 339).
The results were promising and yielded proof that the pedagogical methods are general versus conditional. Meaning, “the positive impacts on orientation toward life-long learning of pedagogical practices such as perspective taking, active learning, and reflection are not circumscribed by student characteristics or restricted to specific subgroups of students. Rather the positive impacts of such pedagogical practices may be achievable with a broad spectrum of undergraduate students” (Mayhew, Wolniak, & Pascarella, 2007, p. 352).
Interestingly, the study also found that instructors must also take special precaution to “minimize the possibility of students having negative interactions with others from different social identity groups” (Mayhew, Wolniak, & Pascarella, 2007, p. 352). Part of the frustration students feel, in my opinion, is disapproval from their peers and especially, their instructor. With a new generation of “Millennials” entering the college classroom, one has to question traditional pedagogy methods in the classroom and the ability of planting a seed of life-long learning in each student.
Is this notion a fallacy? Perhaps. Your epistemological standpoint of student learning and retention could sway your response. However, what we must embrace is that life-long learning is a process and cannot be regurgitated on an exam. We may not be able to see immediate results in the class; but, we may have planted a seed.
Reference: Mayhew, M. J., Wolniak, G. C. and Pascarella, E. T. (2008). How educational practices affect the development of life-long learning orientations in traditionally-aged undergraduate students. Research in Higher Education, 49, 337-356