Opinion: Professors must get their students more engaged

If students are supposed to represent the future leaders of tomorrow, they must be more actively engaged in their class discussions and lectures while attending college.

Students become accustomed to a typical format of lecture, notes, and tests while in high school, and this format is no longer feasible for encouraging college students to learn and retain as much information as possible during their tenure.

This format, which has been a main-stay of American education since time immemorial, is not engaging enough for college students, who have worked tirelessly for four years to graduate beyond this tired and ineffective method of teaching.

Students nowadays must have their minds stimulated to maintain their focus in the classroom. A good way to achieve this would be for professors to give their students a variety of experiences throughout the class aside from the lecture itself.

Jane Greco, a chemistry instructor at John Hopkins University, records her lectures and posts them online as homework. During class, Greco has discussions with her students about lab experiments they’ve completed.

What some educators aren’t realizing is that the lecture model has become a nuisance to a majority of students.

“Just because teachers say something at the front of the room doesn’t mean that students learn,” said Diane Bunce, a chemistry professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C.

Even at American River College we have a select few classes that aim to keep their students engaged.

Alan Miller, a professor at ARC who teaches Journalism 320: Race and Gender in the Media, prefers to actively engage his students in the lecture rather than following a typical, mundane cycle.

“This class is very lively and the length of the assignments are as long as you want them to be, as long as you have strong information. Mr. Miller is a great teacher as well … he keeps the lectures interesting and gets his point across,” said journalism major Faisal Manzoor.

According to Manzoor, Miller is able to engage his students in the course material beyond a typical format of pre-arranged lecture notes. Assignments typically include dissection of content from late-night talk show and news hosts and a discussion analyzing how these hosts portray their views.

That discussion ends up becoming an interactive part of the class itself. Students in Miller’s class are not confined to simply writing down notes constructed in Powerpoint for quizzes to follow.

The outside analyzation of sources and information serves to increase discussion and critical thinking about the topics covered in class.

Although it may be challenging to do, teachers must find what interests their students as well as finding activities that will keep them functioning in a classroom environment. It’s the only way for students to stay engaged and actually take in the information.

Homework is still important to the overall success of students, and it should remain centered on re-affirming what the student is learning during class lectures.

The purpose of homework is to reveal and display the skills students have picked up in the classroom, but must feature assignments that will force even the most unbudging of students to put in the foot work and either sink or swim.

The main goal of a college is to actually teach students information that they will retain once they get out in the real world, and getting students out of their comfort zone with interactive assignments is an effective way to make sure that happens.

About the Author

Jose Garcia
Jose Garcia is a third-­semester student on the Current. He previously served as the co-Scene editor. He is majoring in journalism and plans to transfer to Sacramento State.

1 Comment on "Opinion: Professors must get their students more engaged"

  1. It’s interesting that the instructor featured in this article is the one to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. After three years at ARC and four semesters on the staff of the Current, I ended up with Alan Miller in Race and Gender in the Media and Public Relations, two classes, back to back. After two weeks of trying to stay awake in his classes, or trying to forgive him his racist and misogynistic comments and questions, I started to realize I was in the wrong place. The clincher was when he threw away an assignment I had handed in because it was written by hand, on the spot. Had I been the instructor that had been handed a composition written in under ten minutes, I would have been curious to see what this student was able to produce in such a short amount of time. But Miller, in an unsurprising act true to character, gave my work not an iota of shrift and threw it in the trash, unread. He didn’t even have the respect to return it to me with an
    F and a big red note that said “ONLY TYPED ESSAYS RECEIVE REAL GRADES”.
    His insult to me, combined with the injury of listening to a racist misogynist lecture on race and gender in the media, finally broke me out of my journalist bubble. I dropped Miller’s two classes, signed up late for a Comm Course with Professor Geoffrey Stockdale and the History of
    Rock and Roll with Dr. Dyne Eifertsen, and changed my major to communication. It wasn’t just a move in the right direction, it was me aligning with my true North. Because, you see, I don’t want to just report what happened today, I want to help shape what happens tomorrow.\
    Until the seventh generation,
    Karen Thomas

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