Do Students Know Best?

So many of us in higher education enthusiastically endorse current instructional strategies intended to engage active, meaningful learning in the classroom. While there are many instructional approaches used to actively involve students, one that is easily recognized is the Socratic Method. You can picture it – an interactive discussion-style teaching approach where the instructor asks questions and engages students to talk, think, and learn from each other. It certainly seems students would want to be involved and working with others in the classroom, yet a recent Inside Higher Ed story, Socratic Backfire? , sheds light on another perspective.

I’m not sure what I make of this story – lots of questions are swirling in my head. What was it really like inside his classroom? Why were the students either not willing or not able to engage in this type of teaching? Were they reacting to their own learning discomfort or were they not able to learn with this process? What does this kind of reaction tell us about today’s students? Why didn’t the professor’s colleagues see glaring instructional inadequacies? Sometimes it feels like there is too much emphasis on blame and finger pointing in our classrooms and not enough emphasis on learning.

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