Consider the following question:
“As educators, given that we know more than the students on the subject we are teaching, why should we care about feedback from students in terms of how we are lecturing? Are we giving students too much freedom over our teaching methodology?”
Three main reasons come to mind when thinking about why I became involved with the Centre for Teaching Excellence as an Instructional Developer: I love working with people, I enjoy teaching and I am always pursuing opportunities for improving my teaching skills. I am a strong advocate for the idea of a dynamic educator, one that is able to adapt not only to the classroom environment but also to the demands of the job market in preparing students for their future careers. With this I mind, I was quite surprised when I was faced with the above mentioned question.
To offer more background to this question, I recently had the opportunity to co-facilitate a workshop aimed at training aspiring educators. In this workshop, there was a clear emphasis on student-centered methods for ensuring an effective lesson delivery. After an in-depth discussion with the participants, the above-mentioned question mentioned was a surprise to me, as in my mind, teaching has always been a two-way street in terms of communication and feedback. I can go on and on about the pedagogical reasons for being aware of and for considering student feedback when developing, teaching or restructuring lessons, however, as an engineering alumna from University of Waterloo, I can provide three very different reasons as to why educators should pay careful attention to student feedback, especially in fields such as science and engineering.
Cost of education
In a report entitled “Costs of Higher Education Rankings 2010”(Usher and Medow, 2010), the costs associated with higher education in Canada are estimated to be in the higher spectrum when compared to the global outlook. In my experience as an undergraduate student at University of Waterloo, with regards to independently financing my studies, tuition and other education associated costs have always been a big concern for me. With that in mind, as a student, I felt compelled to be involved with committees and other means of feedback in trying to increase the standard of education for future generations as I felt that the learning expectations should positively validate the high costs associated with education. I think that instructors should become involved with relevant student committees and take feedback from students very seriously, as the students are ultimately the parties that will benefit from the education system for building their career path and are invested financially for the duration of almost five years.
Lastly and in my opinion most importantly, most universities strive for high global rankings and prestige. This attracts high caliber students, researchers and educators, which should ideally self-fuel high rankings and prestige. However, unless there is a culture of innovation within research and pedagogy, mentalities grow stale and the competitive edge tends to dull. For example, in a recent article published by Business Insider(Lynley, 2012), University of Waterloo was ranked amongst the top 29 engineering schools in the world, and 4th top school outside of the US. Again, based on my 9 year experience of being at this university and being involved with various committees, I can honestly say that this achievement was the result of an active drive within the engineering departments to re-vamp the curriculum and laboratory facilities, to re-think teaching methodologies and research directions. This all goes back to the idea of thedynamic educator, one that is able to adapt curriculum, teaching style and research to a new generation of students.
The idea is that for an educator, feedback from students is very important not only in adapting your teaching style, but also in bringing relevance to your course, meeting student expectation and also raising the competitive edge of the discipline. If you have any opinions on this matter, I would be very interested to ear from you.
Lynley, M., 2012. The World’s Best Engineering Schools. Business Insider. Accessed online July 25th, 2012. url link.
Usher, A., Medow, J., 2010. Global Higher Education Rankings 2010 – Affordability and Accessibility in Comparative Perspective. Accessed online July 25, 2012. url link.