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With students who are stressed during difficult times, teachers must adopt caring practices

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In the good old days of college teaching, especially technical subjects, professors would stand in front of a class of freshmen and say, “Look to the right, look to the left. One of them won’t finish.” The idea was that the fear of failure would motivate students to do their best to stay afloat academically.

But these days, more professors are taking a more mindful approach to teaching — a compassionate response to the collective trauma caused by the COVID pandemic and other challenges facing today’s college students. This became clear to me a few months ago when I gave a talk on the benefits of active learning to over 75 faculty members at NYU. In a survey addressed to participants, I asked them to identify the learning methods they use online and in person. What came back was a flood of responses with dozens of approaches that show this audience has put a lot of thought and care into how to encourage students to engage and succeed online and on campus.

“When students feel like they have more choice and control, there’s a lot more motivation,” says Bahrie Goren, a visiting assistant professor who teaches courses on competitive strategy and digital marketing. “We want students to feel that they are cared for, that we are helping them learn, and not just seeing us as authority figures.”

Yael Israel, an assistant professor who teaches courses in project management, agrees. “Our practice is about caring about how our students learn, valuing each student’s trajectory, and providing pathways where they feel safe to perform at their best.”

Goren and Israel say their emphasis on care in learning does not stem directly from what has come to be known as ethics of care, but from their own experience of the needs of students. However, I was intrigued by their recognition of caring as essential to effective student engagement. Thus, I researched the concept of pedagogy of care and, to my surprise, discovered that it dates back to the 1930s and 40s, to the pioneering work of the Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky, who was noted in scientific and pedagogical circles as one of the founders of social constructivist theory. . Stanford University educational philosopher Nell Noddings later expanded this into a broader ethical concept.

The ethics of care differs significantly from the ethical philosophy of the 18th and 19th centuries, which was mainly based on duty or utility and supported by reason and logic, following universal objective rules. In contrast, the ethics of care depends on emotional qualities such as compassion and empathy. Vygotsky drew attention to the fact that feelings and cognitive abilities are not separate; his classic study concluded that they form together.

Whether online or in person, caring pedagogy blends student-centered learning into a safe, responsive student-teacher relationship. Unlike a nurse caring for a disabled person or a parent raising an infant, nursing in higher education is an interpersonal practice in which faculty and students play complementary roles—listening carefully to each other, understanding each other, empathizing, trusting, respecting, and depend on each other. the other is the attributes that go hand in hand with active learning.

Support for teachers of active learning

I was wondering what made the difference. Why have so many faculty in NYU’s School of Professional Studies business programs embraced active learning, while faculty elsewhere often resist or ignore it.

As you might expect, many studies show a high level of reluctance among teachers abandon conventional lectures, with many saying they don’t have enough time for classes or enough time to develop materials for active approaches. Other studies show that professors simply do not have the time to devote to teaching among other professional responsibilities, as most tenure and promotion guidelines emphasize research over teaching. Why would a new professor choose alternative teaching strategies when promotion might not matter much?

But perhaps the biggest obstacle is departmental culture. If your department does not support active learningwhy should you

NYU’s Department of Business Programs is one place that encourages faculty to use active learning techniques. The school makes a strong effort to teach teachers in new and interesting ways. Hosting 4 to 6 faculty seminars per semester, attended by up to 75 people, and occasionally much more, up to 120, each session introduces a new learning tool, giving participants the opportunity to practice with others in real time.

“Teachers have been trained their entire academic lives in a lecture format, and that’s what they reproduce in their classrooms as teachers,” says Negar Farakis, assistant dean of the department. “Our main message is to show that instructors can effectively transition from lecturing to active, experiential learning, leaving each workshop with two or three very practical takeaways. Working in small groups, teachers share their experiences and best practices with each other. This gives them the opportunity to learn new pedagogical approaches and methods faster.”

In addition to attending workshops, novice instructors must complete a 25-week onboarding process where experienced instructors closely monitor them, offering alternative methods and giving them helpful tips on how to succeed.

Immediate help

College students today face more than the usual stress caused by daily struggles with motivation, test anxiety, procrastination, and time management. They live under a cloud of mass gun violence, student debt, endemic racism, and now a brutal war in Ukraine.

The pandemic has not only unleashed a devastating disease, but it’s also taken a toll on college students, leaving them with emotional problems and heightened anxiety — something faculty say they’ve never seen before.

New PsychologyToday, the report says that depression rates among college students have doubled in the past decade, with 66 percent of college students experiencing extreme levels of anxiety. Most alarmingly, the report found that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students

Colleges cannot continue to operate as before, as if these realities can be brushed aside. Our faculty has a new and deeper commitment not only to open students’ minds to intellectual discovery, but also to transform the classroom into a nurturing refuge from cultural and economic violence.

This is completely logical studies show that when postsecondary students learn in a caring environment, motivation, desire to succeed, and satisfaction increase along with improved attendance and attention, increased study time, and additional course enrollment.

Active learning is not just a set of pedagogical techniques, but it has a deeper and more significant meaning for higher education. It covers philosophical and psychological ideas that put caring for our students at the heart.

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