Title: Fellow Learner

Web:  Pepperdine University – Graduate School of Education and Psychology

Favorite Books:
Shibumi by Trevanian  (Rodney William Whitaker);
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl;
Bourne Series by Robert Ludlum – Bourne Identity, Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum

“I never learned anything when I was talking.”
“If we don’t teach our children well, someone else will teach them poorly.”
“Become the student you always wanted to teach.”

My Story:  
In September 2012, I began my 51st year in education, and I am still trying to get it right. I think that deep down I have always felt that if you want to teach students something, do that “some thing” with them.  Get your students started and motivated and then get out of their way.  Once they are underway, hang back a little and watch them grow.

Three events have marked my journey.  I was asked to teach a market research class and was given the curriculum – which I promptly tossed.  The old curriculum involved a sterile study of statistics and the concept of data gathering, with the culminating activity being the analysis of an existing database. I rebelled and said to myself, “If my kids are going to learn market research, then they are going to do market research.” (By the way, your students are always your kids no matter what grade level or age.) So, they formed groups, obtained clients and did incredible work for these clients. I taught them the statistics part on a “need to know” basis.  I asked them what they wanted to learn from their research and then tailored the stat part to their needs.  If they wanted to know if there was a product preference by gender and age group, then they learned two-way ANOVA.  If they needed to know the relationship between age and retail spending habits, then they learned correlation coefficient. At the end of the course we reviewed all of their analyses and voila – the stat portion of the course. Their motivation to learn answers far exceeded any fear of statistics.

Fourteen years ago, I started teaching Public Policy in our doctoral program. By now it was easy.  Want to learn public policy at the federal level? Go visit with the people who make public policy at the federal level.  27 trips with students to DC have convinced me that this plan works.

The final epiphany for me occurred this year, and it was a tough one.  I began teaching a new doctoral class called, “Emerging Technologies”. I was charged with defining the course and its experiences.  With some apprehension, I did that, But, I questioned my wisdom in setting out the course experiences. How could I be sure that the class made sense and “worked” for the students?  I could think of only one way to find out, and that was to take my own class. I did what I had asked my students to do.  I became the student that I had always wanted to teach. (There will be some adjustments to the curriculum next year.)

And I end with this: if you want to be a good teacher, be a good learner.  Commit to yourself that you will learn more in this class than any one of your students.  Demand that they teach you as much as you teach them.  Learn and experience together.

Put incredible demands on them by asking them to do four things:

-learn more than any of their fellow classmates.

-teach their classmates all that they know.

-make this a better world through your class work.

-have fun.

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