If you are a professor and undergo the immense apathy of your students quite often, stop complaining about it. The solution could be right at your fingertips. The world has changed and so have the students. However, professors insist on staying in the late Antiquity. Renovation of university faculty is a fundamental condition to build the university that will fit into the educational model described by the Delors Report (UNESCO, 1998).
A renowned Calculus professor with 30 years of experience and abundant academic publications might fail about 70% of his students every term. If that number shocks, you must know, dear reader, that this professor brags about these results, as he firmly believes that his job is being done remarkably well. Clearly, something is not right in this picture.
The average student of this hypothetical professor does not go to class. It is uninteresting to see the professor showing off solving much simpler exercises than the ones they will have to figure out in the next evaluation. Just in YouTube, students have access to hundreds of courses, which can be accessed whenever, wherever and how many times he wants and needs. Why this student does have to go to class? A few years ago, students had to sit down at their desks and listen to the professor. Today it is not necessary. However, professors do not understand this new situation and keep thinking students’ bad performance is due to their inconsistent attendance.
YouTube, iTunes University, Coursera, Miriadax, Teachlr are just a few of the many places where students of virtually every area have access to resources that not so long ago, only a professor in a classroom could offer. The dynamic of “attending class” has a different connotation than the one it had 10 or 20 years back. Professors must understand and accept that they are no longer the exclusive source of knowledge – that they are progressively less needed by their students. However, too many professors insist on maintaining the same evaluation methods of more privileged times for them. Assessments continue to be centered on the professor’s actions.
This is the key point to understand why 70% of the students of our hypothetical Calculus professor keep failing the course. As long as we don’t realize that students – who, by the way, do not need the professor’s explanation on functional derivatives – should be the center of education, these will be the outcomes. Since the publication of the Delors Report, the message to academic institutions (universities included) has been to boost an education process that is collaborative, interactive and student-centered – a process that inspires them to learn autonomously for life.
Universities should not be the aim of every high-schooled. Universities must be the platform where our students find the tools to develop their full potential in an open and responsible way. This is impossible to achieve as long as the professor continues to be the star, while the classroom fails to be an interactive space where every student’s potential is propelled and not plummeted. Calculus students that take the subject up to three times in order to pass it, end up hating the possibilities derived from the knowledge the course has to offer. The opportunity to innovate, think critically, work in teams and handle new technologies is simply tossed aside.
If you are a university professor and wish your students to be the stars, let them have the spotlight. The world has changed and so should we all. We need to adjust, take advantage of the new, while saving the valuable legacy tradition has left us – a legacy pivotal in maintaining our identity. The Roman Empire fell, but the Roman Law prevailed.
Don’t be that professor that makes students allergic to class. Become the bridge that allows them to cross from yesterday towards tomorrow, to new better times. Help them enhance their abilities and personal talents. I am on this journey and trust me; you’ll learn what you thought you already knew.
Maria Magdalena Ziegler
Professor of the Universidad Metropolitana (Caracas)