A recent article in the Chronicle for Higher Education, So Many Hands to Hold , talked about students wanting to be given the ‘right’ answer or ‘correct’ topic. Many commented about the lack of critical thinking skills in today’s student. One commented that her grandson could not find his way without his smart phone. Another lamented that every subject should be computerized so students can blame the technology if they fail. As director of campus instructional technology and instructor in educational technology, I cringe at these thoughts.
That being said, my view is very much the same as the writer’s and commentors. Yes, I find students find it difficult to break out of the rigid mold of right and wrong ways of thinking. However, I also discover when I do not play the game, when I force the student to innovate, create and critically think, the students flourish. Initially I hear grumbling of not being helpful 0r caring but after a few assignments they begin to get the message. I have had more than one student tell me that my class was their favorite or that the collaborative atmosphere was the best ever encountered.
I have one rule – whatever the subject, the student must be willing to read or show it to their grandmother. Podcasting and digital stories are favorite assignments.So far, I have not had anyone challenge this rule. I give very few specific instructions, just what is to be done and by when. I use peer review for many assignments and have students give participation grades to members of their group. One very dysfunctional group at the beginning of the semester turned out to be the highest achievers.
Yes, I have my disappointments, but one must concentrate on their successes. These successes make me want to continue trying to make creative, critical thinkers of my students.