In Their Own Words
Teaching has always been about changing lives. When most of us started, we changed lives by providing access to content unavailable anywhere else. Learning content will always remain essential, because thinking requires ideas, symbols, facts, and a framework. But we can’t teach information that has not yet been discovered, and students know that their phone will be there to teach them after we are gone.
This change cuts to the very identity of what it means to be a professor as the expert, the maker, keeper, and arbiter of content. This democratization of content is changing lives (for both better and worse), but it hardly replaces us. In fact, it brings to light the true value that only we can add: the value of human interaction and compassion. It has never been more important to teach students to judge the quality of evidence; develop the ability to see through false assumptions; integrate new knowledge with old; and, most important, to pursue new learning and new truths as a lifelong passion.
“Through ACUE, we can prepare our faculty with their ‘degree’ in pedagogy. It can be the nation’s teaching center and help us change lives.”
I don’t have a degree in pedagogy or adolescent psychology, and most faculty don’t either. But if we accept that our work is so much more than custodians of content, then we have to adapt our teaching more than we’ve ever done before. We must create the conditions for learning so that our students realize, and really feel, that their ability to learn new things matters to them and to our world.
The single most important factor in a student’s lifelong success is the real connection with a faculty member who inspires confidence. Other people can say, “I believe in you” or “You are a great poet” or “I can’t wait to see what new chemistry experiment you’re going to do.” But when faculty say it, it changes lives. Believe it or not, students admire faculty. Teaching is about both design and your humanity—and knowing your students can help you with both. When your courses are ambitious but transparent, and you have high standards but students also feel nurtured and that you care—that’s when teaching changes lives.
ACUE offers an essential service to higher education by gathering the research, curating the fundamental teaching skills, and delivering a course in the foundations of college instruction. Through ACUE, we can prepare our faculty with their “degree” in pedagogy. It can be the nation’s teaching center and help us change lives.
Reprinted with Permission from Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning