Monday, April 2, 2012

What Do We Learn From Our Students?

Last Friday, March 31st, over 60 students from Center High School visited Rockhurst Campus through a program called PREP-KC. PREP-KC was organized in 2005 to promote college readiness with high school students from surrounding urban school districts. The RU Department of Education was one of many departments who had the pleasure of meeting and talking with students from Center HS. I was humbled by the fact the students came in and were genuinely engaged and interested in what we were presenting and asking them to share. It made me miss teaching in K-12 schools!

During a six short 30 minutes sessions, we had about 10-12 students in each group who wanted to learn more about the career of teaching and our Department. Being true to our philosophy of modeling the teaching practices we wish for our education students to implement, we started with a 'Think, Pair Share'. Students were placed in small groups and we asked them "What characteristics make a good teacher? What about about the opposite?". We learned that many students want what would seem like basic qualities in a teacher: compassionate, understanding, caring, not too friendly, but not rude, good listeners, and so on.

One of the more interesting activities we then proceeded to engage them with was a cooperative learning exercise. Each student has a role: Leader, Recorder, Presenter. We explained effective teaching happens when learning occurs. Then, we asked THEM, to finish the statements: Learning occurs when....Learning is not occurring when.... They were asked to discuss first, then write down the main learning activities they experience or do not experience in the classroom. We asked them to focus on, how do THEY learn best.

From the photo above you can see one a few group's feedback. Again, this is exactly what the DOE at RU teaches our pre-service teachers. We instill and educate our future educators on these very practices which K-12 students want to feel and see in the classroom.

Here is a list of their answers in their own words from the question: Learning occurs when...
  • No distractions
  • Interactions with each student
  • Different types of teaching
  • Using information in real world connections
  • Challenge each other
  • Peer teaching
  • Repetition
  • Rewards
  • Ask questions
  • Give specific details
  • Stands ground, good classroom management
  • Smaller lectures
  • Hands on work
  • Students being more involved in the discussion
Learning is not occurring when...
  • Students take over
  • Overloading homework
  • When teachers only give negative feedback on returned work
  • Yells
  • Embarrasses student
  • Only does lectures
  • Don't make personalized contact with student
Again, these are practices many teachers do on a daily basis (both sides). But if we continue to ask our students how THEY learn, we will confirm the best teaching practices we as teachers know how to do. Teaching can be challenging, but what an incredibly rewarding profession for those who care about the students FIRST.

I applaud many of you out there who love and respect your students on a daily basis. Because as true educators know: we learn from our students just as much as they learn from us.

Learn more about PREP-KC at:

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