Project Description

Promoting students’ learning

By Prof. Spencer Benson, former Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning Enhancement

This tip focuses on what should be teaching’s primary purpose, i.e., helping students learn. An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Ann Curzan “20 Things Students Say Help Them Learn” looks at this issue by asking students to describe what promotes good learning. The article divides students responses into two sections, the first list ten things students can do to promote good learning, and the second, ten things that instructors can do to promote good learning. I encourage you to look at the article and the comments that various readers have posted to the site’s blog. Two overarching themes emerge from the list.

The first is that students and teachers need to make efforts to engage each other in ways that foster mutual respect. The second is that both teachers and students need to remember we are all human and have lives that involve ups and down, successes and failures, trials and tribulations and rewards. What makes teaching both challenging and interesting is that it is a human endeavor, and because humans are complex and have complicated lives, teaching and learning often involves a changing landscape that needs to be negotiated in ways that respect and honor the individuals and the roles that each play.

My two favorite suggestions for students and professors are as follows: what students can do to promote good learning is “Feel empowered to -do and make an effort to- participate. Trust that other students and your instructor care about what you have to say and be willing to be vulnerable and open a discussion as that’s how learning happens.” What instructors can do to promote good learning is “Refrain from interrupting students to get a point across we (students) know that sometimes one of us can get long-winded and you may need to redirect; what we try is to not to interrupt you and it’s really nice when you don’t interrupt us.” If you read the article I’m sure each of you will find different ones that you feel are most important. I encourage you to do so.

In many classes, it may be both beneficial and worthwhile to simply take a short amount of class time and asked students the two questions that Ann Curzan asked: What can you as a student do to promote good learning? and What can I as an instructor do to promote good learning? It would be of interest to see if students come up with the same or completely different suggestions.

Revised by CTLE on 27 January 2022.