Professors adapt teaching methods

Published: March 10, 2016

AQUINAS PHOTO / EMMA BLACK / cyrus olsen, Ph.D., teaches theology during the spring semester of 2015. Some professors believe teaching methods must be adjusted depending on students.

AQUINAS PHOTO / EMMA BLACK / CYRUS OLSEN, Ph.D., teaches theology during the spring semester of 2015. Some professors believe teaching methods must be adjusted depending on students.

ANNA PUCCI
Staff Writer

The lines of communication between students and professors can be scrambled and challenging.
Catherine R. Cullen, Ph.D., an education professor at The University said that it is impossible to plan around each specific student, but with basic knowledge she is able to have an understanding of how to handle the differences among students.

“In terms of lecturing, we know that human beings in general, have limited attention spans.” Cullen said. “The mind can literally, with regard to short-term memory, pay attention for literally ten minutes and then as human beings, can no longer pay attention and process information.”

With short attention spans in mind, Cullen structures her class accordingly by starting off with a brief lecture period then doubling that time to allow students to process information.

Cullen explained that educators are purposely well prepared for different instruction methodology.

“I think we have different strengths and weaknesses as learners, so I feel that some students need more of an auditory stimulus, they do better by taping lectures, so they are listening to the instruction repetitively,” Cullen said.

Jason Laitner, a first-year student at The University, explained that he finds no baseline for studying.

“As a student, you have to adjust your studying habits depending (on) who you have, so every new semester you have different strengths and weaknesses,” Laitner said.

Cullen understands that there is not just one way to teach.

“My area of expertise is how to teach and the instructional process. The new research instruction is very robust and rich, and what we know now about how people learn is more sophisticated than it was years ago,” Cullen said.

The new research Cullen talks about is what Thomas P. Hogan, Ph.D., a professor of psychology, explained in detail.

“What it suggests is, do more frequent testing or assessment of students and when students are trying to learn themselves,” Hogan said. “Aside being evaluated out of the classroom, they should spend time assessing them.”

Hogan explained that repetition is the most effective way to be successful.

“The key concept in teaching is getting student engagement in the material and doing it continuously,” Hogan said.

Another very important principle is distributive learning, Hogan said. He explained that distributive learning is more effective for students while learning the material, meaning students should distribute their time rather than packing it all together, which is called cramming.

“People learn equally well regardless of what you say their learning style is. People will always believe that their learning style is very firmly held belief, but it really does not amount to anything,” Hogan said.

John C. Norcross, Ph.D., a professor of psychology, agreed with Hogan about the lack of importance of learning styles.
“Give up the learning styles,” Norcross said. “They are barely supported in literature, and when they are, they show no relationship to how professors are teaching. Everyone does better with active learning.”

Norcross emphasized that a learning style is strength, and not a category for work ethic.

“It is a rampant myth that learning style largely determines how a teacher should teach,” Norcross said.

There is no evidence that explains that learning styles are more effective when applied in the classroom, Norcross said.

Active learning is the beneficial way to learn.

Contact the writer: anna.pucci@scranton.edu

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