Giving Students Responsibility
Yesterday, I asked two students to co-facilitate the discussion we had over Freaks. They began by entering into a dialogue with each other about various aspects of the film. Then, other students jointed the discussion. I was impressed by many of the issues raised in the discussion; issues that I am sure would not have come up had I tried to lead the discussion.
One of the benefits of student lead discussions that we do not often consider is that the points that a professor wants to make are not lost. Because they are the professor’s points and the professor has the power in the classroom, they cannot be lost. But what can be lost–unless we give students the ability to lead discussions–is the points of view that students want to bring up.
Today, another student took responsibility for the success of a class in which students were introduced to library research. We are working together in two classes this semester and he already had the lesson. Even though he would have been working with different materials, I decided not to have him go through the process a second time. Instead, I asked that he work with his colleagues to make sure that they were introduced to the basic research skills that I wanted covered.
I could see someone arguing that the student might miss something that I had wanted covered. My response to such a concern was “So what if he does?” It is not as if there would be other opportunities for me to cover the missed material. But my assessment that students live up to the responsibilities we give them proved correct. This student did an excellent job and I have nothing that I need to add to what he covered.
I am sorry that I did not get any photographs from either class.
“Knowing that it is one of my favorite films, in a review of Freaks, one of my students wrote, “Overall, I was not impressed with this film at all. In fact, I would compare it’s insensitivity to equality to D.W Griffth’s 1915 silent film Birth of a Nation.” She gave the film a rating of D+. A D+ to one of my favorite films!
“I am so pleased that a student can comfortably take such a position in a class I am teaching. What is important is that she gave strong evidence to support her position and I am very proud of the contribution she will be making in today’s class. (Yes. I guess I am boasting a bit here about how the approach I take in my classes is working.)”