A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about marking examinations and my tendency to focus on the students that I had failed to teach rather than those who excelled in their knowledge of problem-solving with the laws of thermodynamics [see my post ‘Depressed by exams‘ on January 31st, 2018]. One correspondent suggested that I shouldn’t beat myself up because ‘to teach is to show, to learn is to acquire‘; and that I had not failed to show but that some of my students had failed to acquire. However, Adams and Felder have stated that the ‘educational role of faculty is not to impart knowledge; but to design learning environments that support knowledge acquisition‘. My despondency arises from my apparent inability to create a learning environment that supports and encourages knowledge acquisition for all of my students. People arrive in my class with a variety of formative experiences and different ways of learning, which makes it challenging to generate a learning environment that is effective for everyone. It’s an on-going challenge due to the ever-widening cultural gap between students and their professors, which is large enough to have warranted at least one anthropological study (see My Freshman Year by Rebekah Nathan). So, my focus on the weaker exam scripts has a positive outcome because it causes me to think about evolving the learning environment.
Nathan R, My freshman year: what a professor learned by becoming a student, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 2005