Instruction vs. the College Student

Empty Classroom by Rico Marcelli

I just spent four days participating in my institution’s instructional workshop for new faculty. I’m glad I took the workshop this year, with a year’s of instruction under my belt for context. The new faculty in my group, most coming from industry to academia, has no idea what they will be up against in three short weeks.

One of the amazing things about the student population at my college is the range of skill level, background, and age. We have ‘traditional’ students (those just out of high school), and those returning to school after years in the workforce. We also have everything from G.E.D. preparation courses to university degree completion programs, with diplomas, certificates and trades apprenticeships in between.

Knowing one’s audience is crucial to effective instruction; however, I find myself choosing between losing the lower level students during a lesson, and offending the intelligence of those already carrying a degree. Since most of my instruction time is one-off, hour long sessions, I yearn for the time to get to know the students and find out what they need to know to be successful in their programs.

My goal for the new school year is to engage more readily in pre-assessments of learning and adjust my lessons accordingly (on the fly). I’d like to get the advanced student involved as an ‘expert’ for the duration of the lesson. Participating in the workshop allowed me to appreciate other instructional styles and realize that there isn’t a right and wrong way to teach. Instead, it’s about teaching effectively to the group in front of you.

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