In higher education, one needs to realize the seriousness of the connotation tediousness or as we popularly call it boredom. This is a process that seems to be setting in once ‘run-on-the-mill’ continues and the level of interest starts diminishing. As a phenomenon, this can easily be seen among students in certain manner. We need to realize that the level of energy and enthusiasm among students towards learning stands at peak at the entry time, through first term. New friends, new environment, new learning methods, new faculty, new milieu creates the magic. High energy leads to high level of engagement. The experiences start turning the other way round with setting in of second term and then to the end of the year. It becomes tougher and tougher call to engage students as they move closer and closer towards the finishing line.
One possible source of tediousness is mechanical delivery in classroom. More than 1000 hours of teaching in similar fashion, again-and-again, is good enough to generate boredom. It would make a lot of sense if mixed pedagogy is applied in each course, with a rage encompassing hands-on, experiential, visits, out of class engagement. These methods need to be well spaced. Teaching must also rely a lot on using ‘fun’ as part of pedagogy. Learning is a serious business, more so when ‘learning with fun’ gets serious.
Yet another way is to shift from pedagogy to andragogy. This would mean shifting from one-way learning transfer method to co-creation of knowledge. Students must be actively involved in creating knowledge rather than remaining a meek receiver. Students are bundle of energy, given that the energy is channelized positively, it can create wonders.
Today’s students need active involvement and they want to be a bonafide partner in knowledge creation. Students are not a working machine rather they are a human learner. They need to be pumped up, need to be given space. We need to save them from becoming a super working machine towards the end of the term when examinations are announced. However impatient they may be, the urge for being recognized, being trusted, and being provided with an opportunity to prove and test themselves, remains uncannily very high. Higher education must harp on this energy to get over the phenomenon of tediousness.
Kolb’s Description of Learning Style
Kay Peterson and David A. Kolb (2017) provided a fundamental description of how do we learn. The title of their publication reads How You Learn Is How You Live. It describes nine learning style typology. These styles are: Initiating; Experiencing; Imagining; Acting; Balancing; Reflecting; Deciding; Thinking; Analysing. A combination of these styles may result into various learning experiences. Largely, they can generate four types of experiences such as concrete experience, reflective observations, abstract conceptualization and active experimentation.
There is a lot we can learn from Peterson and Kolb’s long experience and clinical experimentations. While working on pedagogy, faculty can mindfully work on learning style inventory and incorporate it in teaching, group work and other assignments. One of the reason why students feel disengaged is that the teaching style of the professor and the learning style of the student do not match. The four sources of learning engagement, as it also happens in life for all of us, are through feeling, watching, thinking and doing. When we lecture in solo mode of communication, we actually do not engage students any significantly. In fact, creating learning experience with the opportunity to feel, watch, think and do, students need to be given larger space while teachers need to take lesser space. With this approach of ‘less is more’, one can create ‘significant learning’ experience as has been advocated by Fink (2013). In order for learning to occur, there has to be some kind of change in the student. If there is no change, there is no learning. Fink wants teachers to think about the impact they want to have on students a year or more after they have finished the course.
Opportunity to learn by ‘feeling and watching’ and ‘thinking and watching’ will add to experience while learning by ‘thinking and doing’ and feeling and doing’ is likely to create ‘significant learning’ leading to transformative experience. Students are not engaged because their learning experience is not transformative. The 21st century learners look for transformation, relevance and impact. ‘Doing’ turns out to be a big game changer in beating the monotony and bringing about zestful and transformative experience for the learners.
Fink, Dee L (2013) Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Kolb D (2015) Experiential Learning. Experience as the source of learning and development, second edition, Pearson Education.
Peterson, K and Kolb, D (2017) How You Learn Is How You Live: Using nine ways of living to transform your life, Berrett-Koehler.
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