by Andrea Noble, Online Course Support Assistant, Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning (CIEL)

Drawing by Andrea Noble

Drawing by Andrea Noble

100% Human Connection

If the purpose of higher education is to gather information, the Internet would’ve replaced teachers by now. When teachers bring the human element into the classroom, students experience transformational learning. Ideally, we should inspire each other to grow as people. I believe it’s my job as a teacher to demonstrate the joy of learning. When we love learning, we’re empowered to change the world. Yes, I know it’s a lofty goal.

Create a Positive Learning Environment

As a result, I always include personal elements when developing my courses. I share stories… especially embarrassing ones because I want my students to feel comfortable opening up. When they see me “being real”, I can almost feel the atmosphere shift as they relax. We must be vulnerable in order to learn. Many of my students enter the classroom with a type of bravado because they don’t want to appear stupid… but if they’re too afraid to ask questions, they won’t learn. Fear doesn’t inspire greatness.

Move Ego Aside

A friend’s parents said, “We don’t care what your grades are, as long as you learn something.”

An A is good for the ego, but not necessarily proof that you learned anything. As a self-diagnosed perfectionist, I spent way too much time worrying about getting “it” right. I was obsessed with grades and pleasing my teachers. I didn’t reach my full potential because I didn’t focus on learning. I focused on results.

Worst of all, I received A’s on tests I crammed for. However, a few weeks after each course, I couldn’t remember any of the materials. If we focus only on grades, we miss the learning. Also, I believe A-students are less willing to take risks. We truly learn when we are challenged outside our comfort zone.

It wasn’t until I joined the UBC Improv Club that I realized I was too attached to outcomes. On stage, making scenes up as we went along, I wasn’t in control. I had to abandon the idea that only perfect would do.

Focus on Feedback

Learning can’t be measured by grades. I understand that’s a controversial statement. I’m not suggesting we get rid of the grading system. However, I’m suggesting we get rid of the one-shot model; it’s ludicrous to focus on acing an assignment or test on the first try. Let’s provide feedback that students can build upon. My students hand in assignments (in stages) so they have time to rewrite and improve their work. Not only does this increase their learning, but it mimics the real world.

The purpose of higher education is to teach students HOW to learn. That includes learning how to fail and practicing over and over again. Don’t reward students who are simply smart test takers. Everyone needs to develop a good work ethic and the ability to persevere despite “bad” results.