Pedagogy Students and Teachers page 2

Student Attitudes (continued)
It is only a few students that select a school on the basis of program and instructional quality. Most students base their application on what they can afford or what is convenient. Sometimes they apply to schools they have heard about, a teacher or friend has recommended them or someone they know attended that institution. The reasons for choosing an institution are frequently superficial to educational goals. There is an assumption by many students that a degree from one institution is just as good as one from another, and it is of small consequence which school they attend. This is a dangerous presumption in any form of professional education.

Students tend to view education as grades and a diploma rather than what they learn. Most students do not understand what education is, the educational process or their role in the process. This has to be carefully explained to them.

If teachers are aware of the importance of student attitudes, those that are most harmful can be redirected.

Productivity and motivation will improve with educational benefits becoming proportionately greater. Teachers need to deal with these problems from the first day of class and consistently throughout the program.

There are several student concerns regarding teachers that are extremely important. Students might not always like it, but they do respect honesty. Students resent arbitrary decisions or criticism justified only by teacher authority. They want, and deserve, an explanation for actions by teachers.

Perhaps more than anything else, students value fairness. Any action by teachers perceived as being unfair by students greatly affects attitudes toward that teacher and education. Fairness, among other things, pertains to requirements or procedures, criticism of work, and assessment of all students by the same criteria. Students expect grades to be explained and justified. Students will accept a demanding program as long as they believe it is fair and that every student is treated equally.

Students want, and respond to, perception of teachers as being sincerely interested in them as individuals. Students respect teachers who work hard and display dedication to teaching and the profession.

There can be no question about student attitudes being shaped to a great extent by how society today in America views teachers and education. From the historical point-of-view, youth is a precious resource, teachers are highly respected and education is not only valued but considered imperative to the future of that society. This view has been held by all cultures throughout history and it includes primitive societies as well as civilized nations.

Attitudes toward education in this country began to change after World War II. During the period of educational retrenchment beginning in the late 1960s, education was identified and treated as a business by politicians and industrial leaders. Teachers gave up their status as professionals for that of employees; education was sold as a service, universities, colleges and schools were managed as businesses, teachers provided services and students became customers. Under these conditions, there should be no surprise that students as customers believe they should dictate what they expect because they have paid for it. It is perfectly clear why students often view education and treat teachers as they do.

Strategies for Shaping Student Attitudes
The relationship between student attitudes and commitment, discipline, maturity and productivity must be understood and dealt with by teachers. This involves students shedding old values and acquiring new ones which is not an easy task. Passive students must learn to take initiative in their education. To have a successful education, students must recognize the need for interpersonal skills, setting goals, and to be objective in assessing their own capabilities. The foundation for new values is an understanding by students that education is not something given to them, but something they must obtain by aggressively availing themselves of every opportunity – teachers, libraries, peers, technical facilities and through their commitment and productivity.

Twenty years ago, I seldom took class roll as it was not necessary. More recently, it has been required to take roll at every class and also to note those students who leave early or come late. Excused absences are rare as an absence is an absence no matter what the circumstances. Three absences are allowed without penalty; four means a warning and five or more per semester affect the grade. Students who are not in attendance cannot learn, and this discipline has to be established from the beginning.

The normal method of instructing in the studio is for the teacher to move around the studio helping each student individually. About ten or fifteen years ago, I stopped using this procedure. I positioned myself in the studio and required students to come to me when they needed assistance. This pressured students to take initiative when they wanted my input. There were always students who refused to make use of my presence. These students usually fell behind in their work or did poorly. Eventually they were pushed to make contact with me in order to survive. This is the way it is going to be after they leave school, so they might as well learn it while in school.

My experience has been that any kind of research requirement in conjunction with problems fosters self-initiative. Research requires individual effort; the exposure from searching is in itself informational, broadening and sometimes motivating. Research puts students into the position of learning on their own.

Even at the introductory level, students do research in connection with projects or they are required to do written and image research on painters, architects, photographers or designers. Research assignments at any level are good strategy to develop student self-motivation.

Self-pacing students is another strategy. Students cannot duck the responsibility of learning simply through meeting a deadline. Too often, meeting deadlines become the student goal rather than problem objectives. When students realize they cannot advance until the work is at a satisfactory level, they either withdraw, fail or adopt a more positive attitude toward assignments. The practice is most important with the introductory theoretical exercises, drawing and color. At the Senior level, deadlines are set and enforced.


Shaping Student Attitudes (continued) >

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