So, here’s one of the videos we watched (there’s adorable baby footage). In it, a professor from KU talks about how we “get by” our classes and watch our education pass us by because we’re just trying to “get through” our requirements and commitments during college. He also points out the design flaws in the higher education system, and I think it’s a very illuminating critique on how we view higher education. The most notable was the question of whether or not having a bunch of students in stadium-style seating facing a teacher who basically talks at them for one to three hours–or more–is the most effective way to keep them engaged or enthusiastic (or even interested at the most basic level) in what you or I as the teacher have to say.
I go into classrooms now and specifically pay attention to the ways in which seating is arranged, where the main focal points are, what the students look like (are they facing forward? Are they even awake? Engaged? Texting?), what the teacher looks like (do they have a flat affect and speak in a monotone? Are they gesticulating wildly with enthusiasm? Are they moving around or remaining stationary? Are they using a powerpoint presentation? Are they using multiple mediums? Are they writing on the board? Are they inviting students to come up to the front? Are they moving around the room? Can they move around the room or does the design of the space restrict their movements?). I also pay close attention to the design of the space and think about how that affects learning and teaching outcomes. Having just finished a human-centered design course, I have become a believer in the power of design thinking to improve and democratize higher education, and am fully cognizant of the fact that the way in which a learning space is designed and built directly influences the type of learning (or lack thereof) that happens there.