Good teaching demands that instructors ask ourselves this question: “A year – or more – after this course is over, I hope students will _____.”
Research tells us that students will retain only a small fraction of the information they learn, so hoping they’ll remember details of what they studied a year before is not a good way to fill in the blank. It’s up to us to make sure we set realistic goals for what we want students to take away from our classes; things we believe will have lasting value.
I hope that students remember one particular moment when they encountered the unexpected and it shifted the way they looked at the world: Seeing the wild and beautiful murals at the Church of the Advocate might cause them to look at art more closely and encourage their own creativity; participating in a lively – and provocative – classroom debate about female genital cutting might make them realize that there is more than one credible way to view a controversial issue; doing research for an oral presentation on contemporary Hindu pilgrimage holy days might pique their curiosity about another culture and maybe even their desire to travel.
But even more important to me is what those moments allow: Students become aware of assumptions they had when they walked into the classroom and reevaluate whether to hold on to or change those assumptions. That’s really what I hope students will be inspired to do for years after.
Rebecca Alpert is a professor of religion at Temple University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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