10 Ways to re-imagine the student learning experience

In a the latest tweetDavid M. Perry, a medieval historian and journalist, offers the following advice: “Every branch of history must have a class aspect of ‘what is going on’ – this is important for major and genotype researchers.”

I couldn’t agree more strongly. Only I do not limit this idea to a specific subject. Recent issues – the pandemic, black protests, the rise of populist and authoritarian policies, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – require a multifaceted perspective.

Any serious understanding of recent events in Ukraine, for example, requires a much broader understanding of the development of nationalism and national identity not only in Ukraine; disagreements over the goals of post-Soviet Russian and NATO policy; disputes between Slavophiles and Westerners in Russian history; game theory and the role of emotions in international relations; fog of war; and many other things.

Our campus is full of experiences and this is not beyond our ability to make our academic proposals more timely and relevant.

But shouldn’t we take it a step further? The idea of ​​current events – inspiring courses should be just the first step in redesigning the types of experiences we offer.

I think a small number of students are able to take five courses at a time seriously. Should we not acknowledge this fact and reconsider the demands of the time we place on students?

There are many different ways we can deal with the stress of time. We can:

  • Think of three-hour courses as four- or even five-credit classes by adding practical or hands-on components.
  • Expand the number of courses with alternative formats, including studio classes, workshop opportunities, design courses, field or community classes, and internships and research experiences.
  • Create timely survey communities around a hot topic where students can apply for credit.

An anecdote is definitely not a single piece of information, but my personal experience shows that many students want educational opportunities that are very different from what we offer. Let me suggest 10 alternatives to the business.

  1. Provide academic credit to students involved in the development of teaching tools, course interactives, or resource resources.
  2. Create group and project courses by teachers that lead to real results: a program, a scientific or popular publication, an online resource, or other mass-oriented product.
  3. Establish “change leadership” working groups to investigate on-campus or local issues and develop and implement solutions, and consider their work to be relevant to the specialty.
  4. To enhance cultural literacy, offer humanities experiences that include visits to cultural institutions, including museums and exhibition spaces, followed by a discussion and analysis of the work students have encountered.
  5. Offer skill-oriented courses to better prepare students for the job market. Thus, majors in the arts, humanities, or social sciences can learn the basics of accounting, budgeting, project management, and other skills that are likely to require postgraduate studies.
  6. Make service training an integral part of your undergraduate experience by offering an academic loan to participate in school, teaching, and after-school programs and other forms of community service.
  7. Expand the workshop from the range of creative and theatrical programs that already exist. I believe that every field has techniques and skills that can be improved in one workshop.
  8. Focus on establishing and participating in learning communities that work together to research, study, and cover topical or controversial topics. For example, students can learn how to encourage the best forms of behavior or assess the potential impact of specific community or campus policies.
  9. Establish “design thinking” courses that address and evaluate challenges in specific areas, such as health care; primary, secondary or higher education; or environmental policies and the various solutions proposed.
  10. Create a scale of undergraduate research in which students first learn about the design and methods of research in a specific subject and then conduct their own personal research (which may be laboratory-based but can be archival, quantitative, qualitative, cross-referenced). be. -section, policy-oriented or surveyed, field or participant-observer), after the public presentation of their results.

What unites all of these suggestions is the value of learning through action. We often talk about the importance of practical and applied learning and translation research. Let’s work harder to make these ideas an integral part of the student experience.

The reward will be enormous in terms of student engagement and relationship with faculty, peers and the institution as a whole.

Stephen Mintz is a professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin.

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