Editor’s note: This letter is in response to The Slate Speaks Staff Editorial that appeared in the March 2 edition and online at theslateonline.com titled, “The Slate Speaks: Students, faculty must work together in online learning.”
In response to the opinion piece: “The Slate Speaks: Students, faculty must work together in online learning,” I write to you as the director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). In this role, I work alongside my faculty colleagues and staff members who direct strategy initiatives on campus, including instructional technology and campus departments focused on student success. CETL’s mission is to expand our instructional identity in ways that enact varied and diverse methods to connect the process of teaching with the outcomes of learning.
One year ago, spring break was extended, and faculty prepared to teach remotely using new tools and with a renewed sense of defining what is important. Each Friday afternoon for the last year, a CETL focus group meets to discuss the student experience and ways to ensure that Ship has a comprehensive understanding of the complexities surrounding hyflex teaching and learning. Also, during the fall semester, I met weekly with students to capture their unique stories. I recorded their comments and shared their recommendations with faculty. These insights continue to be shared with the president and provost, and many others. Faculty recognize firsthand the deep commitment most students have to persist in the face of anxiety, isolation, unreliable WIFI, and a general lack of motivation. We also see some students who are inattentive and disengaged. We are concerned when students lack materials; when they do not attend class; and when they do not use course/campus resources.
We value your insights and observations, especially acknowledging our good faith efforts to teach both in person and via zoom. We hear your concerns regarding the significant hours students spend completing assignments, working with peers, studying for exams, and, of course, attending class.
“Important achievement requires a clear focus, all-out effort,
and a bottomless trunk full of strategies, plus allies in learning.” Carol Dweck.
We know that many students balance employment, care for family, and have other responsibilities while also attending school full time. So, I write to you with a few recommendations:
Pace Your Studying: At the end of each class, re-read your notes. Review a peer’s notes to compare your level of detail. Answer these questions for yourself:
• What concepts do I value?
• What concepts or skills are still unclear?
• When I think about XXX, where/how can I see yourself using this information in the future?
If you are uncertain how to respond, talk to your professor or a peer or learning specialists in Mowery Hall. Learning is not a solitary task, it requires communication, clarification, exploration and adaptation.
Share Your Knowledge and Skills: Content knowledge is deepened when you have ongoing conversations contextualizing the concepts and skills you are learning. Call a friend or your family member. Explicitly relate the information you are learning, review your notes during the conversation. It may seem strange, but a daily conversation summarizing your depth of understanding amplifies your knowledge and allows others to add their own understanding of information. Plus, your friends and family will be able to celebrate your learning journey with you.
Learning takes time and attention. Think about the hours you spent mastering a skill, especially a skill you value. Studying within a semester timeframe requires a clear understanding of your own personal pace of learning and completing tasks. We often underestimate the time it will take to read a chapter or study for an exam. So, break down that work into daily rehearsal you have on your own, with your peers, with your professors, and with your family.
Dr. Lynn Baynum
Director, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
Chair, Teacher Education Department
Associate Professor in Early Childhood
and Literacy Education
216 Shippen Hall
Shippensburg, PA 17257