Teach Less Better

Students come to college eager to learn, but that eagerness can quickly become diminished. Some faculty members can even create the students they don’t want. What can faculty do to develop deep, lasting student learning?

Dr. Peter Felten, Assistant Provost and Associate Professor of History at Elon University, presented at Queens University of Charlotte’s opening events. The interactive session developed engaged learning, which Felten defines as “requiring students to integrate, apply, and assess what they are learning in different contexts.”

Dr. Peter Felten leads an interactive session for faculty
at Queens University of Charlotte

Lessons learned:

  • Courses should have two or three things that are the most important to learn.
  • Students should spend most of their time dealing with those two or three things.
  • Teach less better.
  • Engaged learning requires engaged teaching.

According to Felten, engaged teaching is active, includes individual and group work, incorporates public and private assignments, holds students accountable to others, and provides students with incentives to peer-mentoring and accountability. The job of the instructor is to help students see what is important and focus on that. Students are novices in the topic, so they see everything as important.

“Every time I see an unmotivated student skimming in my class, I ask myself, ‘What about the context is causing that?'” says Felten. Students need meaningful challenge, regular practice, and appropriate feedback, guidance, and models. “If I’m not giving them that challenge, I bear some of the responsibility for their motivation, or lack thereof.”

One comment

  1. Dr.McArthur,
    I definitely agree with your post. Students are like sponges and as a teacher that first class is so important to create an image of yourself and the course that the student will enjoy. There are a million monotone and mundane courses out there, we die for an interactive course where we are active engaged. The focus on two to three key issues is a very interesting way to plan the semester as a teacher. I completely agree about students thinking everything they learn is key, which is not the case. As a teacher, especially teaching lower classmen, the teacher must ask him/herself, “What are the main points/concepts I want them to go away with?” The mistake many teachers make is that they try to cover too much information within a semester and the students work for their grade by pure memorization and 3 weeks after the course is finished they remember nothing.

    I must commend you on your teaching style. You ensure we are constantly and actively involved with both peer work, real life homework (twitter) and generic reading the textbook and blogging. I really enjoy your class and appreciate the planning.

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