As Times and Students Change, Can Faculty Change, Too?
As demographics shift, the experiences of more and more students resemble those of faculty members less and less. How can faculty adapt to ensure these students succeed in a suddenly changing world, and how can institutions help?
Faculty are crucial for students. They serve as instructors and mentors. They connect students with a network that will help them succeed and get good jobs in the future.
But they can also get in the way. As the student population shifts away from the traditional 18-year-old heading off to live in a dorm to students who are older and lower income, institutions and their faculty members are struggling to find mutually agreeable ways to support nontraditional students.
That means colleges and universities struggle with how to motivate faculty to serve different students. And some faculty members struggle with how to adapt. “When I hear a faculty member complaining about students all the time, I know that’s a signal for discussing retirement on the horizon,” said Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C.
While the big-name colleges still enroll plenty of stereotypical students, the institutions that serve the bulk of students have seen changes. The numbers are clear: 37 percent of today’s students are older than 25, according to information collected by Higher Learning Advocates. Almost two-thirds, 64 percent, work while in college. Another quarter or so are parenting. About half, 49 percent, are financially independent. Almost one in three, 31 percent, live at or below the federal poverty level.
And those were the numbers before the novel coronavirus shattered the country's economy. The full effects of the virus aren't yet clear, but it seems likely to add financial pressures on students in the coming months and years. The issue of aligning faculty skills with students' needs goes beyond the stereotypical trope of an old, cranky professor who doesn’t like change, though. Challenges to overcome can be as simple as the hidden language of academia and faculty assuming all students have the same understanding of common terms on campus.
How does a student know the meaning of office hours if the student has never before heard the term?
The issue might be carelessness or thoughtlessness -- like assuming students don’t have responsibilities outside of their coursework. It might also be unintentionally carrying on one mode of teaching for years without analyzing why students are dropping out of courses. The answer to this is not simple. Getting faculty to adapt to the times takes planning, buy-in and, most importantly, money.
But it’s necessary. For faculty who seem unwilling or unable to adapt, McGuire tends to have conversations about whether they still feel excitement about teaching. If professors don’t want to explore new pedagogies or approaches to teaching, that’s a sign they’re worn out, she said.
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American Educational Research Association (AERA) Coronavirus, Education Research, and Education: Relevant
AERA Journal Articles
Dr. Beverly Klecker/Professor in the Foundational and Graduate Studies in Education Department shared this resource from AERA. Take a look at this link:
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