Monday, February 8, 2016

Cultivating Learning Relationships

Take a moment and consider who your best teachers were growing up.  Now, list the qualities that made you think of them in such a positive way.  What made your list?  Knowledgeable?  Caring?  Attentive?  Kind?

When asked this question, most people tend to answer in similar ways.  Your own list might include “cared for me as a person” or “actively interested in my learning” as traits you admired in your best teachers, and you aren't alone!  These qualities are among the most common when people are asked to consider what they deem significant about their teachers. 
In fact, according to a study completed in 2011, when 17,000 students were asked to list the qualities of an effective teacher, “respectful” and “responsive” topped their lists.  Not surprisingly, students responded best to teachers who exhibited these characteristics and seemed to genuinely care about their success.  But what are the best ways to show students that you care about their learning?

John Orlando, the associate director of training at Northcentral University, offers some helpful tips for developing learning-centered relationships with your students.

An Emphasis on Feedback

Firstly, research has proven time and time again that students crave feedback on their work.  They look for written feedback that tells them what could use work, and then also how to make the best improvements.  Providing this sort of feedback rather than a laundry list of things that their work did or didn’t have is much more beneficial for them as well as for yourself.  Taking the time to provide this sort of feedback shows just how much you care about their work and efforts as a learner, and then offers them ways to improve for the future.  What must the student know and be able to do in order to improve their work?  Tell them.

Why are we doing this?

It’s the age-old question that students begin wondering as early as elementary school.  Take some time in your courses to explain why the skills you are teaching are important.  “It will be on the test” isn’t motivation enough for students to actively involve themselves in the class.  Since motivation is generated by seeing value in a task beyond the grade scale, provide the information required for students to understand what the big picture is and how it will benefit them in the long run.

Just Checking In

Take the opportunity to periodically check in on your students and ask them how the course is going for them.  Ask them to write a paragraph about how they think they’re doing, whether or not they are learning the material, and what struggles they’re experiencing.  This interest in student progress encourages students to focus on their understanding of the class material and to come to you for help when they need it.  Doing this two or three times during a course can improve learning, attitude, and motivation.

Tip Provided By: Jessica Moser
Adapted from: Faculty Focus (Magna Publications)

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