Trustees Success Story

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A Student's Perspective: Vanessa Garber

Why are students still reluctant to take general education classes if such new interesting techniques are being implemented? I’ve been interviewing professors about the teaching methods they use and every time I hear innovative and creative methods, so why is the general education program not as successful as it should be? I decided that before investigating any further into these teacher’s techniques, I needed a student perspective that could help me get an answer to my question.

I talked to Vanessa Garber, a senior here at AU, who is also involved in the general education program. When I asked her if she believed that her general education classes were interesting she told me that the only classes she found helped her, where the ones that counted towards her major. Although she is a firm believer in general education, she thinks that because classes that counted towards her major seem to have a focused purpose, they are better developed and better structured. This does not imply that students should take general education courses that only count towards their major; it implies that the general education courses that are not towards a major are “place holder classes”. These don’t seem to be working because they do not have a defined purpose and teachers therefore do not know how to approach the class. She also told me that many times professors that teach these classes are first of all in many cases adjuncts and second of all do not have control over the assigned readings or the syllabus. This creates a big problem because professors are therefore deprived of their teaching methods causing them to conform to methods that may not play to their strengths.

She also told me that the general approach of students towards a general education course is a “simple class”. This may imply that there is something wrong in the program because it is making the students not take their general education courses seriously. When I asked Vanessa what she thought about this, she told me that she believes that it is because the administration is “trying to keep a structure that is no longer viable”. She told me that she believes professors should have more teaching creative freedom and that the administration should have more detailed structures of the courses so that they have a clearly defined purpose that lets the teacher know where he/she needs to arrive at.

Although a difficult problem to attend to, she also believes that it is important to have smaller classes to allow for dialogue between the students and the professor. Because of the nature of the general education classes, they require dialogue or else they will become one more factual class. As I mentioned on a previous blog, I believe that general education classes teach more than just facts, they create a way of thinking. If there is no dialogue students will never develop critical thinking skills that they should acquire from their general education courses.

There are remarkable professors involved in the general education program, but although they are doing their best, students don’t seem to appreciate them. So far I believed that it was a problem with students; thinking that general education is not important. Now my opinion has changed. I believe that students are not interested because they are actually not getting much out of the general education classes. This mainly occurs because the structure is failing to accomplish its purpose: teaching the students about a topic while developing their critical thinking skills. Therefore, I believe the administration should look at the syllabi to determine a specific purpose for the class and at the strengths of each professor and join these two concepts together to be able to develop successful class structures.