After nearly two decades in higher education as a faculty member and based on my experiences and research, here is what I believe to be the ingredients for good learning experiences and great teaching.
First and foremost, teaching/learning is not a solo sport; it is a team effort--a contact sport.
The professor must bring:
- Knowledge of content
- Genuine concern and respect for students
- The three A’s: Availability, Accessibility, and Affability
- Attention to details and organizational skills
- Active learning assignments that connect to learning goals
- Equitable grading and transparency in same
- Level playing field among classmates
- Desire to coach/mentor students
- Willingness to go above the call of duty
The students must bring:
- A desire to learn
- Respect for professor and classmates
- A willingness to prepare for class, put in the required time and pull their weight
- Willingness to keep an open mind and search for alternative solutions to a problem
- Critical thinking skills
- Desire to contribute to peer knowledge
- Motivation to go “above the call of duty”
The coaching/mentoring role of teaching does not stop after the student leaves the college or university. As many of you can attest, years can go by before we hear from our alumni. Yet when we do, it is because the seeds that we planted long ago have taken root and begun to grow into maturity. One of the ways we can keep in touch with our alums and continue to have a mentoring role is through social networking (I hear the groans!) such as Facebook and Linked in. As a general rule, I do not friend students until they have graduated. Looking at my Facebook friends list, about 15% are former students. In LinkedIn, I have a similar number in my network. In addition, it is not uncommon for former students to contact me and ask for a letters of recommendation. Recently, a 2000 graduate emailed me asking if I remembered him (I did) and requesting a letter of recommendation for a doctoral program. Yes, I am very pleased that he asked me and proud of him for his great achievements.
If you have fears of being overwhelmed by students stalking you online, I believe with judicious "friending" you can manage boundary issues. By using social networking, I have made myself available and accessible to former students. My life has been enriched by them. Likewise, I hope their lives and careers have been enriched by my mentoring and coaching.
Don’t be afraid. Get in the game. Teaching/coaching/mentoring is a contact sport.
- Sharon B. Buchbinder, RN, PhD
Sharon Buchbinder is the author of two books from Jones & Bartlett: Introduction to Health Care Management and Career Opportunities in Health Care Management.