By Keturah Mazo
This past Friday, I attended the American Association of University Professors’ annual conference on the State of Higher Education in Washington, D.C. I presented the current curriculum I have developed for my Professional Communication classes and the thought and theory behind those assignment choices. While there, I was also fortunate enough to spend time in other similar workshops about pedagogy and students’ needs in the workforce.
After attending sessions and participating in a roundtable discussion led by Amy Bautz, an instructor and visual artist from Saint Louis University, I came to a few conclusions about how teaching college should be evolving according to what employers want and what students need in this 21st century classroom:
1. Due to advancements in technology, many students have answers about facts and theories available to them at the click of a button.
2. What students do not have is experience in the field in which their professors are experts; however, employers often value that experience highly.
3. The challenge then is to combine a working knowledge of the theory and put that knowledge into practice via applied classroom assignments, real or mock client acquisition strategies, primary workplace research skills, and internship opportunities.
The days of standing in front of a classroom and “instructing” our students are limited. Therefore, as educators, we need to incorporate technologies and/or strategies which not only engage students in the readings and the theories, but provide them with the opportunities to heighten the lower level of critical thinking skills that they are coming to us with from the secondary education classrooms. We need to model for our students what it is to be a mentor, a coach, a trainer, and an expert in our fields. And we can quite easily incorporate some of those strategies by using materials such as Google docs, discussion boards, and flipped classroom models, making the learning more engaging, yet still challenging for students.
After attending, my Fall classrooms will be making some changes to further benefit the needs of students. However, I have to say that overall, I left this conference feeling proud to teach in my department at this university. In fact, as I told the others at the end of my presentation, I have a few other departments to thank as well. After all, had I never had the opportunity to work with majors who are highly skilled such as pilots, scientists, engineers, and psychologists daily, then I might have stayed forever trapped in my world of theories. Every day, my students put their skills to practice in some form or another. My challenge as a Communication instructor is to make sure they understand how to incorporate the skills I bring to the table into their own independent boilerplate, and that the skills they leave my classroom with benefit them, their future employers or clients, and society. I want to create a “buzz” among the nation…one that says simply, “FIT graduate? You’re hired.”