The Life of a Wannabe Academic

Detail of the life a new academic. The progress from graduate training to professor. Includes reflections on the job hunting process, research in technology and education, and what it is like to be a new college professor.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Respect in the classroom

Recently I received a call for writers who might be interested in contrbuting to chapters of a proposed book about respect in the classroom. I have since kept this call for proposals and might be thinking about writing about an interest in contributing to a chapter in this proposed book. I have an interest in how instructors can illustrate respect for their is a component in my teaching philosophy statement. However, my problem is that my thoughts on this issue are just rationalizations of what I personally think are behaviors that help to show respect for my students and not part of any real empirical research that has been conducted.

A few of the behaviors that I try to demonstrate include starting classes on time and finishing at the end time (not 5-10 min early), having high expectations for course work and test performance but also giving ample opportunity to ask questions and practice the tasks, giving both positive and negative feedback on assignments and papers, and trying to hold that sometimes elusive position of being seen as a professional and expert without coming off as unapproachable or unreachable.

These are behaviors that I see as being respectful, however, I wonder if students see these same behaviors as being exemplars of respect. I am thinking of taking some time in one of my classes to ask what students see as ways that faculty can act that demonstrate respect. I wonder if the same types of behavior that I believe show respect are the same as the student.

The reason that I think there might be a difference is perhaps what the different definitions of "respect" might be. For me showing respect to a student includes not only treating them as a responsible adult who is responsible for his/her own actions, but also to demonstrate that I expect and recognize that through hard work and pushing oneself beyond their confort level they can accomplish great things - even if they do not necessarily believe they can or don't want to. I wonder if a student would see this aspect of respect or if a student would interpret it as a professor being a bit of a hardass. However, I believe this part is crucial becuase sometimes students are not aware of what they are capable of if they are not pressed. Showing a student their true capacities can really help them grow as a person and also demonstrates that I feel that they can better themself - that they are not just a student who does not have the ability or smarts, but someone who if they apply themselves and have the proper amount of guidance, can do great things.

Perhaps if I choose to write a proposal to this call for proposals this is the angle I would take. It is one that has been studied pretty extensively. A book chapter would be a great thing for me at this point in my career, I just wonder if I could coherently write my thoughts on the subject. I am sure that there are several others out there with this same idea who might have more name-power than I do. But it might be worth a try!


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