Monday, December 3, 2012

Full Engagement

co-authored by: Merril Mullendore and Kim Arnold
Initially for our project we chose to address the issue of how to make college students want to come to class. We later wanted to discuss how to allow us to get more out of the classes we are in. So finally, after some research and meditation we realized there was a simple answer to both of these problems, hands-on learning. We followed that up with more in depth research of our new focal point and found the pros, cons, and ideas for introducing hands-on learning to more JSU classrooms.
College students around the country are learning differently than they use to. The boring lecture for three hours isn’t working anymore. Students get tired and burned out on class. What the classroom needs is hands-on learning. An employer would rather hire an experienced prospective employee. When students only listen to their professor, they do not get the experience necessary to play a vital role in the work force. College is a learning experience right? Well, let’s teach students with information and experience. Students will want to come to class if they get to take part.

There are many positive sides to having hands-on learning. Students really seem to capture the information. A Chinese Proverb says, I hear and I forget, I see and I remember. I do and I understand. The method of hands-on teaching gives them lasting comprehension, not just short-term memorization. During lectures, information comes so quickly to students. It is pretty much going in one ear and out the other because so much is being told at one time. Hands-on allows them to not just listen about the subject, but experience how to use the subject. The sad part is lectures are the main way college students are taught. College students can’t process the information as quickly as the professor throws it out there.
Hands-on also allows the students become the creators. Students don’t like listing to a monotone professor, who they feel like they do not relate to. They also don’t like reading the big textbook that puts them to sleep. When they learn hands-on, they become interested. The students also feel they share the common interest with the professor. Students tend to do better in classes they are interested. When hands-on is involved they see the importance of the material. They learn skills that are important to them now and later. They also learn how to order their priorities. For instance, facebook does not come before taking an online test.
Hands-on learning will give students the experience and skills they need for the workplace. Students feel accomplished when they do their own experiments. Teaching is more effective when a student has to try something out to know if they really understand the material. When students understand the subject, they will be able to answer on-the-spot questions. They will also be able to apply the subject to everyday life and the workplace. Isn’t college all about becoming prepared for the work industry?
There are always two sides to every story. So, along with the positives effects also come a few negatives. The negatives are really based on the student. Hands-on learning could become a distraction to the students. That is where the student determines how they will spend their time. Maybe there is an instance where hands-on learning is taught without the logic and full teaching from the professor. The student wouldn’t be able to comprehend the material if the proper information wasn’t taught first. Hands-on learning should still be balanced with the old-style classroom teaching. The hands-on method preoccupies more time than a lecturing method.
 The benefits of hands on learning are obvious. Being able to retain the knowledge you are being taught and understand it`s applications is really the whole goal of a college course in the first place. If professors are willing to put in the effort, hands on learning can be added to any course in any number of ways and it has been proven to show incredible results. One way to add hands on learning to a course is to have the professor research online role playing games. Many can have real life applications that can help students to understand the subject matter by virtually “doing” what they are being taught. These games can teach you about social science, architecture, mathematics, economics, and many other real world topics. The entire class can be required to make an account and then be given assignments either individually or in groups that the professor can check from his or her own account.
Another way to make classroom learning more interactive is to have the professor break up the lecture. There are a number of ways this can be accomplished such as: letting the students watch a relevant video that shows the applications of what is being discussed, giving time for the students to practice what is being taught so they can figure out what they understand or don`t understand before they leave the class, asking specific questions so students can gauge how well they are comprehending the material, or opening the floor for discussion among the students rather than making the class an hour and a half long monologue by the professor.
Having two separate courses work together to solve a problem is another way to implement hands on learning. Making a course co-op would not only provide a sound understanding of the material and its applications, it would also encourage students to learn to work together and show how the subject matter in one class is connected to the subject matter in another. This could help show the relevance of all the courses that students must take and the benefits of learning a broad spectrum of subjects.
 One more way professors can make sure students are grasping the material they are being taught is by at the beginning of the class asking them what their learning goals for the semester are and what their confidence level in the subject is. This should be followed up by asking for regular, honest feedback about how well they feel they understood the section and how they feel their understanding could be improved while they are being taught the next section. This will allow the professor to make small changes throughout each semester so they can do the best job possible teaching that specific group of students.
If Jacksonville State University would integrate the hands-on learning method, major results would occur. More high school students would want to attend JSU. Word would travel that JSU is an interesting and fun place to attend classes. More starting freshman would see graduation day because they wouldn’t get so burned out on their classes. It would bring JSU into the twenty-first century. Finally, the teachers could be on the same page as the students. Students learn by doing, so let’s give them that opportunity! Our goal is to get college students to class and allow them to learn as much as possible while they are there.