Through the Eye of the Student, Part 1
Earlier this month I wrote an article titled Making a Difference for the February E-News, and I mentioned a study completed by The Memorial University of Newfoundland in which researchers asked students what they felt were essential characteristics for effective teaching in higher education. While this study targeted university learning, the details certainly apply to our instructional role as well.
Let’s take a few minutes to dig a little deeper into what researchers found to see how we might apply their findings in our own classes.
This was the top characteristic identified by students in the study. They used words such as: fair, understanding, flexible, caring, patient, helpful, compassionate, open-minded, sincere, diplomatic, concerned, reasonable, consistent, kind, empathetic, humble, trustworthy, and realistic to describe their expectations of their educators.
To demonstrate these characteristics, students want their educators to be: compassionate with regards to their circumstances; open to "stupid" questions; willing to explain many times and in different ways if necessary; courteous; tactful with criticism.
Students described this characteristic with words like: flexible, competent, credible, current, practical, reflective, and qualified. With these characteristics in mind, we need to effectively convey content that can be understood; share real life experiences; vary teaching strategies; and relate content to real life.
Using real-life, past experiences and knowledge helps students to better understand new information, skills, and attitudes.
And the old saying, “never stop learning” also comes to mind. By continuing our personal education; reading sources both inside and outside the health and safety industry; and by staying up-to-date on current technology, we further demonstrate our dedication to our craft.
Students want their educators to be friendly, personable, helpful, accessible, happy, and positive. Behaviors that exemplify these characteristics include smiling in class and creating a comfortable atmosphere in which to learn. It’s important to note that we learn best when we are intellectually, psychologically, and physically prepared to learn. Creating a welcoming learning environment that has minimal distractions, and is free from stress and anxiety is a critical step in the learning process.
An Instructor’s job is to develop skills and make these come to life for students, so they will not hesitate to apply their skills when the need arises. In that spirit, students used words like enthusiastic, interesting, passionate, motivating, creative, positive, charismatic, stimulating, interactive, energetic, and assertive when they described what they looked for in an educator.
Behaviors that best describe these characteristics include educators who interact with students; have a passion for course content; vary their tone of voice; actively involve students in a lecture; and use creative approaches during class.
Study participants indicated it is important for their educators to be clear, understandable, thorough, constructive, and attentive. Keeping these descriptions in mind, we should speak clearly; have astute listening skills – “don’t just hear what is said, listen to what is said”; use a variety of teaching methods; be organized; maximize use of class time; and give prompt, quality feedback.
Ultimately, we should approach each class with a positive attitude, and come to class prepared and engaged if we expect our students to do the same. By doing so and keeping the five characteristics described above in mind, we demonstrate that we genuinely care about our students’ success by developing a caring relationship with them.
Be sure to look for my next post where we’ll take a quick look at the final four characteristics from the study.
Jeff Myers, Vice President – HSI