HECG has been banging on for many a month about the need for universities and colleges to put the student at the centre of the learning experience: not the professor/lecturer/tutor/technological gizmos, but the individuals in the classroom. As we’ve said before, those universities that best meet the needs and expectations of students will achieve the greatest success.
This is not just a romantic notion but one that has practical implications in the real world – today’s students are more market-savvy than ever before and many come to higher education with big expectations of individual attention.
And yet there is more to it, and we at HECG are happy to reference someone who has described that in a beautifully written and passionate blog for Inside HigherEd. Author and teacher John Warner describes in pellucid prose his journey from having himself at the centre of the learning experience (as a professor leading a class) to enabling individual students to come to the fore.
In his Just Visiting blog, Warner – discussing the teaching of creative writing – says that the lecturer as the central figure is undoubtedly comfortable for students “but it is a place non-conducive to growth”.
“To jar students from these patterns, I’ve had to force myself further and further into the background of their work. I try to create an atmosphere of excitement around writing well, and then set up challenges for students to try to conquer.”
Such an approach can cause frustration for the student, he writes, but if they are provided with tools to move past this obstacle, then new worlds of learning open up …
“when they do move past [the frustration], I’ve witnessed something that sometimes seems rare in the college context: joy”.
“When a student knows that they have achieved something they didn’t think they could do, it really is the best, and it’s only possible if I’m on the sidelines, rooting them on.”
Excellently expressed, and a brilliant argument for putting the student experience first. HECG heartily concurs.