60 Mutual Humanness in Academia

Rebecca Roberts

I’m Becca. I’m a senior at PSU and a recent addition to the CoLab. As an IDS student open pedagogy isn’t new to me however, the depths of it, are. In reading posts from faculty members who attended the CPLC sessions this summer, one thing that really stuck out to me is humanness. Education is more about interactions in the classroom, or at least, it should be. We are not only humans, but we are adults. As a student who’s always put education before all else, I ended up transferring to PSU because I felt that at my old school my priorities were not being valued. It was hard for me to find passion in education when I felt like my needs aren’t being met and I wasn’t being heard, especially for the self-advocating student that I’ve always been.

A common theme I read was faculty recognizing that it’s their job (and time!) to put some of the reigns back in student’s hands to create a resurgence in the relevance of education. In The Gestalt of Teaching, Sarah Parsons writes how in education we need to, “ask questions, be overwhelmed by the experience of learning; stammer; misspeak; miss the mark — do all of these things and keep going — rephrase thoughts, process out loud, reconsider earlier statements…” She describes an environment where students aren’t pressured to stay within the lines – where they know they can push the limits and not have to worry about doing poorly on an assignment because they didn’t follow the outline accordingly. A shift in the right direction might be allowing students to actually create outlines for assignments themselves. This way, all learning will seem justified to both students and professors, working to bridge current gaps that exist in the student-faculty member relationship. Learning can be exponential but not necessarily with traditional approaches that teach students if they are wrong, they fail.

To me, open learning is about students finally feeling like they are on the same playing field as faculty members. For years, we have thought that we are below our professors. While it’s true they have more extensive schooling than we do, the faculty-student relationship should be one based on mutual respect moving forward. We shouldn’t feel we are below them, we should feel our professors are people whom we can look up to and try to model, like our mentors. We, as students, should feel comfortable inquiring about the real-world experiences they have had and use them to shape our degree-related experiences moving forward. This allows an unfamiliar (in a traditional approach) trust where students are heard and faculty members listen simply because a conversation on what education is, is happening. The goal is to make students feel curious and help them acknowledge that it is their responsibility to learn and to know.

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