Join FDEV Book Club to Learn Why Students Resist Learning

Book club invitation to the first 20 respondents – See below

No matter how applicable, relevant, or even entertaining your teaching is, some students will not be engaged in class. Some are blatantly disengaged as they sit in the front row texting or even sleeping. Others go to the trouble of faking engagement by pretending to type lecture notes while checking Facebook. So, why are some students disengaged to the point of resisting learning? And what can you do to re-engage them so they can be successful in your class?

In their book, “Why students resist learning: A practical model for understanding and helping students,” Tolman and Kremling (2017) answer these questions and more. They posit that student resistance is less of an enduring trait and more of a temporary (and thus changeable) motivational state due to several factors. One factor, for example, is that students may resist learning if they see a professor as part of an oppressive system trying to force a point of view they do not accept. Resistance can also occur if a professor creates assignments or assessments without a rationale behind them. Many other variables can contribute to resistance including students’ past classroom experiences, cultural background, and institutional culture. The authors recommend innovative pedagogical changes (e.g. active-learning, team-based projects, inclusive pedagogy) rather than blaming students for their lack of engagement.

If you’re interested in reading this book and discussing strategies to increase student engagement on our campus, click here to join the Spring ‘18 FDEV book club. We’ll meet monthly on four occasions this semester to discuss the book, engage in open dialogue, and learn from each other.

There is no compensation for participating though FDEV will provide a free book for you as well as coffee and snacks at each gathering. The book is pricey so participation is limited to the first 20 respondents.

Grow From Failure

Growing up in Illinois in the 90s, I idolized Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, considered by many to be the greatest NBA player ever. In this 30-second commercial, he lists all his competitive failures and then attributes them to his overall success.

Professors also encounter failures that guide us toward success. When a teaching technique fails miserably or a manuscript get rejected, we reflect on the feedback, learn from the experience, and improve our follow-up performance. This is a skill we should teach our students.

Too often, students hide their mistakes, keep quiet if they’re unsure of the answer, and feel ashamed for getting test questions wrong. But there are benefits to making mistakes in college. To F.A.I.L. is to make the First Attempt In Learning. Failure is a victory in disguise. As long as learning and growth occurs for students, failure can be celebrated. As this article about failure in higher ed states, “failure is success’s constant companion.”

Faculty have the power to reframe the perception of failure from a negative, and often emotionally distressing, event to a celebration of learning. We can leverage failures (both our own and those of our students) to teach persistence, patience, and resiliency.

Incorporate Active Learning

As you begin this fresh new semester and explore innovative pedagogical techniques to enhance student learning, consider active learning as part of your curriculum. There is an enormous body of literature on the topic, most of which demonstrates that students learn more and fail less when they participate in the learning process rather than just passively listen to lectures. Lecture is, of course, a valuable tool for student learning but it can usually be supplemented with active learning techniques to increase engagement and understanding. Here are just a couple strategies but there are countless journal articles, books, and websites you can search that are dedicated to this topic for any discipline from Math to Art to Kinesiology.

The undeniable potential of active learning was summed up in a meta-analysis by Freeman et. al (2013). They examined 225 studies comparing lecturing to active learning. Results showed that average exam scores improved significantly in active learning sections. They also found that students in classes with traditional lecturing were 55% times more likely to fail than were students in classes with active learning. They concluded with one of the strongest statements I’ve ever read in this type of research…“If the experiments analyzed here had been conducted as randomized controlled trials of medical interventions, they may have been stopped for benefit—meaning that enrolling patients in the control condition [lecture only] might be discontinued because the treatment being tested [active learning] was clearly more beneficial.”

Fringe benefit #1 of active learning is that students who resist learningbecome engaged learners and can no longer get away with not participating.

Fringe benefit #2 of active learning is that since students are often out of their chair moving around, they will likely be more awake, more engaged, and getting some physical activity.

Have a great spring semester!