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What students want

After an eleven year break from formal regular lecturing, I have started a final year module at the University of Bradford. I’m really pleased to be working so closely with students again: I’ve always found it tremendously exciting to be surrounded by people with so much talent and potential.

My years out of academia have changed my perspective on lecturing and I am very conscious that I cannot predict the needs of students; so I started my session on Friday with some questions to the group. For me, it feels like going back to school, and no bad thing.

As well as asking them what it was they wanted to learn from the module entitled Creative Media EnterpriseI, and what they wanted to take away from it in terms of skills and experiences, I asked them what they wanted it to be like. Their responses were enormously illuminating. I have distilled them into single words for the purposes of the Wordle below.

what students want

The two desired characteristics that really stand out are informality and intimacy. I’m talking to final year students, adults, already experienced in many ways and so their desire to be treated as equals is perfectly understandable and valuable. I’d like to think that part of the informality that they request suggests a desire to contribute, to participate, to collaborate (characteristics that they also mentioned).

They didn’t use the word ‘intimate’ in the activity, that’s my one word interpretation of their longing for small group work. There are sixty students taking the class and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to recognise that only limited learning will take place when the whole group are involved. They know as well as I do that adult learning takes place most effectively through discussion and a full lecture theatre isn’t conducive for that.

I’ll do my best to incorporate the other features they want although, rather like gameplay, the sessions may not necessarily be fun but I hope there will always be rewarding.

Perhaps more interesting, was the list of things that they didn’t want.

what students do not want

This is a very sobering reflection of their educational experiences to date and a real challenge for me to avoid. Tackling some of these issues will be easier than others. Some of them are unavoidable.

Still, I think seeking to understand where the students are is a good start. I’m expecting to learn as much from them as the other way around.

What are your desires for learning? How do these comments compare to your own experiences?


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