VIA Insider Higher Ed: Mike Rose on “The Missing Element in Student Success”

Mike Rose, a UCLA faculty member, pinpoints the “missing element” in most discussions of student success: teachers.  He writes:

An unprecedented amount of attention is being given to student success, to benchmarks and milestones (such as completing remedial courses), to transfer rates, to degree completion. Both state and federal governments as well as philanthropies are supporting structural changes in course sequences, requirements, and pathways toward degrees and offering financial incentives for new methods of measuring success.

How interesting it is though that, except for a flurry of activity around computerized assessment and instruction and distance learning, we hear almost nothing at the policy level about the classroom itself, about teaching. And the classroom is exactly where our attention should be.

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed
Rose argues persuasively about the indispensable role of the classroom instructor in ensuring student success.  His piece (an excerpt from his recent book, linked above) deserves to be read in full precisely because he does not shrink from its implications.
Faculty at all but the most elite institutions, and the elite and non-elite graduate programs that produce them, will all need to look at their role in fostering learning among students: this will entail creating a “learning environment” that fully communicates and explains the intellectual challenges of the material at hand, and encourages students to seek out help when they need it.
Rose also shows how much of this work is accomplished through modeling the intellectual dispositions and attitudes we want our students to develop:
Central to these issues is the kind of atmosphere faculty create in their classrooms. This is not simply a question of personal style, persona, or the way one organizes a room – though they all can be factors. I’m talking about the sense students pick up from the way a teacher addresses them, responds to questions, deals with requests. The bottom line for students remains: Is this a safe place and do I feel respected? If so, students will be more willing to answer or ask a question, participate, take a chance. And in turn, students pick up on the way a teacher responds to them and tend to replicate it in their interactions with others. I witnessed a striking negative example of this pattern years ago when – to prepare to teach a creative writing class – I sat in on a workshop taught by a well-known local poet. We weren’t halfway through the first class, and he had diminished three participants into silence with haughty and snide comments about their work. By the next class, some had dropped, but the telling and disturbing thing is that by the third class those who remained interacted with each other in similarly nasty and unhelpful fashion. The best way to foster civil, thoughtful, intellectually rich discussion is to model it.

Well worth reading. And if you have any responses to this argument, we’d love to hear about it.


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