First, all opinions are my own and do not reflect the position of anyone else and certainly not the institution(s) for which I teach/work.
- Monkey See, Monkey Do…and Monkey Maybe Learn
- KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid (I’d sub “for Students” in place of “Stupid”)
- Don’t be a dick – applies to both instructor and students
That’s the sum total for what I think makes for a happy and productive instruction environment/classroom.
The first point, “Monkey See/Do”, is essentially a restatement of “learning by doing”. In my experience, students don’t do really well with a theory-first or theory-only approach to concepts. Rather, hands-on examples or at least demos of ‘theory-in-action’ before discussing the underlying concept or theory is more engaging and memorable (at least for the non-prodigies of the world).
The second point, KISS, should be reasonably straightforward. Don’t make anything more complicated than it needs to be–especially when introducing new, often confusing and complex concepts. Students tend to ‘turn off’ pretty quickly if you bombard them with overly complicated terminology/jargon or theoretical explanations instead of ‘easing into’ a topic.
The last point should also be clear on its face. Just be nice, courteous, understanding, empathetic, etc. Humans respond better to this–not just the student variety. 🙂 Also, I’ve never seen any evidence to show that students absorb or learn effectively in hostile environments. The human brain is not good at retaining information when under unnecessary stress. Click here for an academic paper on the subject from Nature.
So far, I’ve been able to help students learn things they never thought they’d understand or be able to do…and the reviews ‘validating’ this method are in…I promise no one was bribed 🙂