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Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Hardest Students to Teach | Teaching Professor Blog

"Some students are more challenging to teach than others. They require pedagogical skills of a different and higher order" argues Maryellen Weimer, PhD.

Photo: The Teaching Professor Blog

Sometimes it’s easier to sigh and just turn away. And that’s legitimate in the sense that students (indeed, people of all sorts) have to figure things out for themselves. But many of us were such “works in progress” when we were in college, and a teacher (or several of them) ended up being instrumental in moving us in more productive directions. It’s for that reason I’d like us to consider some of these challenging students, each one a unique individual, but many displaying the same counterproductive attitudes and actions. Descriptions of these students come much more easily than solutions to what’s holding them back. Said more directly, my goal here is to start this conversation and ask for your wisdom, insights, and experiences with students who are tough to teach.

The Teaching Professor Blog

The Student Who’s Cruising – The one who is just going through the motions, doing coursework with the least amount of effort. Often these students are polite, sometimes even apologetic, but they’re fundamentally uninterested in learning what’s being taught in the course, and one strongly suspects they’re not interested in any of their courses. Can personal attention make a difference? Can showing you care inspire even a modicum of motivation? What about choice? “Is there a way you could do this assignment that would make it more interesting?” What about challenge? “Study hard for one exam—put your brain to the test so you know what it can accomplish.” What about confrontation, constructively framed, but still in the student’s face? “Why isn’t coursework part of your agenda in college?”...

Two points in summary: Maybe the best we can offer these challenging students is our vision of their potential, unclouded by their behaviors. And we may never know that we made a difference. Writer T. C. Boyle had three college teachers who were instrumental in his discovery that he could write. Of one of them, he observes, “He saw something in me—in my writing and my intelligence—and he tried to promote and encourage it.” Boyle says of this teacher who became his mentor, “I hurt him. I didn’t attend classes. I hung with the losers.” But that teacher’s vision caused Boyle to move in a new direction. He started to read books.
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Source: The Teaching Professor Blog


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