Profs must make more of an effort

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

November 7, 2007 Ed Cartoon

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Carl Weiman has proposed lecturing is an inefficient method of teaching, suggesting it does not engage students. He proposes the current system of university education be rejected in favour of discussion-based classes.

Course materials should be presented in a manner engaging to students, and Weiman’s thoughts open debate on what exactly is the best method.

As Weiman is a physics professor, it’s important to note the distinction between courses in the Arts and Sciences. Arts courses, which are based far more around debate, lend themselves more to discussion-based teaching.

This concept raises questions about the validity of the lecture method in Science courses. It’s not uncommon for professors simply to work from slides and lecture notes, often taken directly from the textbook.

It’s no surprise students are bored in class when lectures are often just rehashes of the previous night’s readings. What’s the point in being attentive when you are just relearning things you already know?

As such, professors need to go the extra distance to engage their students. Whether that means better oratory skills, use of audio-visual tools or simply finding more interesting aspects of course material to present, they need to find a way to make their courses interesting.

Of course, it’s unfeasible for many professors to put too much planning into lectures due to the time commitments of research; this raises the question where research and teaching fit into university life.

Whereas universities like Trent and Laurentian emphasize a closer-knit, smaller class size atmosphere concentrating more on in-class attention, Western advertises itself as a research-intensive university.

However, the best student experience mandates that teaching comes first. Papers and journal entries might be essential to Western, but as tuition-paying students we have a right to have professors putting emphasis on our education.

It is obviously not possible to make all lectures discussion-based " the resources simply aren’t available for class sizes that small, and some disciplines are not well suited to debate.

However, this means professors must do a better job mediating the learning process, finding ways to engage their classes. Both students and professors play an important role in providing a proper academic environment; as such, they need to provide the best education possible, and we need to take advantage of the opportunity provided.

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