Teaching fast and slow

19 October 2018

Last week, Neil Lutsky (psychology) and Janet Lewis Muth (Office of Health Promotion), along with Donna McMillan of St. Olaf, presented an LTC talk that encouraged faculty to think about how to slow down courses in order to foster deeper engagement, more learning, and improved student well-being. Slowing down our teaching isn’t about watering down the rigor of our courses, but rather organizing our courses differently.

In his work with students, Neil has noted that students aren’t interested in working less, but they want to be able to work well. Often, the sheer amount of work assigned prohibits students from being able to fully engage with the material.

Here are six approaches faculty might take in their courses to foster student well-being:

  1. Experiment with the idea that less is more when designing your course. For example, consider reducing the length of reading or writing assignments. Or you might choose to cover less content, but that allows students to dive into more depth with the content that is covered.
  2. Acknowledge the pressures that students experience, and be explicitly flexible. For example, you might allow students to turn in two assignments up to 36 hours after the due date during a term, or you might only require students to respond to 90% of the discussion prompts that are posted on Moodle in order to earn full credit.
  3. Encourage student reflection.
  4. Encourage student connection. For example, you might want to say that students may not use electronic devices in the five minutes before class starts in an effort to get students in the class to talk with each other as opposed to checking their phones.
  5. Explicitly promote student wellness. For example, consider setting assignment deadlines before 10 pm; then even if students work on an assignment until the last minute, they won’t be staying up to meet a midnight deadline. Or you might want to include a student wellness statement in your syllabus.
  6. In your midterm and final course evaluations, seek feedback on how you might make changes in the course to support student well-being.

In a culture where people sometimes talk about how much work and how little sleep they have as a badge of honor, slowing things down is a challenge to cultural norms, but the benefits to both students and faculty can be immense.

Here’s a handout from last week’s session with some more ideas to try in your classroom: Fast & Slow LTC