of Dr. Steven L. Berg

“You didn’t teach me anything.”

Today in HIST 151 and HIST 137, we discussed ways in which the class was designed to help develop skills to communicate effectively, act responsibly, think creatively and critically, and demonstrate social/cultural awareness.  It was interesting to hear how students perceived how the course was designed.  After coming up with the lists, I asked students to reflect on how they advantage of what was offered to them.  I am looking forward to reading their reflections.

Sometimes, at the end of the semester, there will be students who accuse me of not teaching them anything.  Often, these students have not taken advantage of what was offered to them.  For example, if a student is given two weeks of class time to do research in the library and is unable to learn anything, is that really the instructor’s fault?

Yet. even if a course is not well designed, learning can still take place.  Several years ago, I remember taking a course that was poorly taught.  The instructor modeled the types of teaching methodology that he told use to avoid in our own classes.  I could have sat back and not learned anything in the course and the blamed the professor for not teaching me anything.  However, I engaged with the material and learned a great deal in spite of the professor’s poor performance.

I am amazed when a student claims to have learned nothing in a course and makes the claim, “My professor didn’t teach me anything!”  Too often, the better statement is that “I didn’t take the initiative to learn anything.”  It is not surprising that the students I have encountered who blame the professor for their lack of learning are the same students who miss class, come late to class, use their class time and library time poorly, don’t do their homework, don’t read the assignments, spend time text messaging, and/or do other coursework during class time.

Fortunately such students are in the minority, but I still worry about them for I know that they will continue to have difficulties with professors and later their bosses and colleagues.  The inability to take responsibility for their behavior will set them back.

This is not to say that there are not poor instructors or that professors make mistakes in their course designs.  I know that I tried some things this semester which caused students to have some difficulty in understanding the material.  Once I realized my error, I made appropriate revisions.  But even had I not done so, students still could have learned something.



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