In this age of experiential learning and cyberlearning, the art of human interaction in the classroom continues to thrive. Even large lecture classes have taken on new life. Why do classrooms still matter? What can students get from the classroom that they might not be able to find online or in the field? Here's what some CLA faculty members are saying:
Asian Languages and Literatures
A scholar of Chinese film, McGrath is “a big believer in film as a collective experience." He often
moderates in-class debates, enabling students to collectively discover truths within complex subject matter.
“If you need to engage in analysis and interpretation, in-class learning provides something that online learning can't, because in the give-and-take process of hearing and contemplating others' ideas and testing your own against them, you will actually come to a much deeper understanding."
Participating in class discussions, says McGrath, enables students “to approach cultural texts on a more sophisticated and complex level, and to get a richer experience of culture."
David Noble depnds on classroom learning to teach his students that they're studying real people with real problems.
“It's crucial for students to know that they're not dealing with abstractions but with living—well, they're dead but they were living— human beings," he says. He even has been known to impersonate prominent historical figures to “help students feel the drama of the moment."
Noble believes that fully understanding the multifaceted situations these historical icons faced gives students invaluable skills in their own lives. “We're always making choices within contexts. But it's much easier to come to know the context you find yourself in if you can compare it with other contexts."
American Indian Studies
David Wilkins will never forget Lois Louis and Vine Deloria, two professors who made an enormous difference in his life.
“They required us to speak with them. It was a reciprocal process. They had faith in our ability to come up with a solid critique of what we had read."
Wilkins demands a lot from his students, because the abilities “to think critically and to be prepared to field questions immediately are critical. They help you throughout life." The most valuable skill a student can take from education, he adds, is “the ability to exercise individual self determination." And that's the kind of skill that the face-to-face interaction of a classroom community can nurture.
By Andrew Hogan