Professors: Move past the PowerPoint and engage students

Christine Colleran

A couple of weeks ago I sat in class, drifting off. I don’t usually make a habit of sleeping in lecture (I am secretly terrified of waking up with a professor standing over me as I wipe the drool from my cheek).
However, on this particular day my efforts to keep my eyes open were about as successful as Paris Hilton’s singing career. Weirdly enough, I had enjoyed a full night of sleep the night before, and had done nothing extraordinarily strenuous that day – so my sleepiness was rather mystifying.

Though it felt as if I would be stuck in class forever, lecture finally ended. Much to my amusement, as soon as I began to pack up my things my energy started returning to me. My eyelids felt less droopy, and I no longer yearned for my bed. As I walked away I realized that, for once, it wasn’t me – the lecture had put me to sleep.

I do not want to directly say that professors are responsible for in-class boredom, but they are. If some professors sat through their own lectures they would be out cold before anyone could say “next slide”. Speaking of slides, it is time professors take a leaf out of their own rubrics and stop reading off of them. I am not asking to be entertained, there’s no need to put on a show. However, I am asking for help engaging with the material. In four years at Grand Valley I feel seriously lucky to have taken a few classes where real learning took place, through which I developed into an educated individual. In these classes I wasn’t being talked at, but rather being talked with. In such cases, teachers shared analogies and stories that related the textbook material to life. My answers and opinions were always considered and evaluated seriously. These professors held me responsible for my own learning by demanding that I stay involved in the class, and rewarded me with praise and new knowledge for doing so. In these cases I wanted to read the text because I wanted to be an active participant in my education.

Learning is a lot like bread. We usually take it pre-packaged, sliced, and ready to go. In this form (heavily reliant on the PowerPoint) learning is easier for the professors to distribute and less difficult for the students to grasp a general understanding of concepts. But learning isn’t a place where shortcuts should be utilized. When a professor makes learning a process, like making homemade bread, the student begins to comprehend all parts of what they are learning, how they fit together, and how these parts affect the world around them. Anyone who has had homemade bread knows that pre-packaged bread doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing.

Yes, we students should be more involved. We really should keep up with coursework and do the readings. We should come to class prepared, and minimize our absences. However, acting in such a manner proves much easier if one has a connection with the class and the material.

It is not the job of our professors to force us to listen and pay attention. There are some students here, most of which are not cut out for higher education, who will never actually listen and engage. However I do believe that it is the professor’s job to give it the good old college try and attempt to involve students. If professors don’t work to engage their pupils, to move past the PowerPoint – there is a good chance that students never will.
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