Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Becoming a Great Teacher: Part 5

Note: The Becoming a Great Teacher series starts here.

In an earlier post on this series, I indicated that interviews with students reveal that the most important trait of great teachers is being a dynamic lecturer.

It may seem obvious why students value this trait. We would all rather listen to a comedian than an economist. However obvious it may seem, we asked students why having a teacher who is a dynamic lecturer is important, and there are lessons from their answers. Specifically, we asked what specific consequences stemmed from having a dynamic lecturer for a teacher that the student values.

The most common consequences, in order of importance, are
(1) helps them understand the material,
(2) helps maintain class focus,
(3) helps them retain the material, and
(4) leads to a valuable education.

Students do not just want to be entertained. They want to understand the material. They want to pay attention, despite their frequent attempts in vain to stay awake. Readers who are faculty members, think about it: how frequently do other faculty members fall asleep in seminars? ALL THE TIME!! And yet we complain about our students' inability to pay attention?

One hour and fifteen minutes is a long time to lecture. It is a long time to listen - to anything. Putting extra work into your lectures to make them entertaining, active, and vibrant isn't just for show. It is to help students stay awake, help them focus, and help them learn.

Good luck!