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Increase Student Performance through Faculty Respect-- Approach High School and College Students as Pre-Professional Adults

Across the United States, many young adults who are still in school at either the high school or college levels are often viewed more as children than as pre-professional adults. The problem here is that when young adults are viewed and treated as children, all too often they will respond accordingly, behaving in immature and, at times, destructive ways. In contrast, when young adults are viewed and treated as adults, albeit young adults, these young people will behave more responsibly and in more of an adult manner. This means approaching high school and college students as pre-professional adults.


Effective Guidance to Raise Students’ Academic Performance

I can affirm that when I speak down to my university students and provide guidelines for their work that students perceive as being micro-managing, they will critique guidelines that they can see may not be the best for them. Let me offer one example:

  • If I offer assistance to my students with their studying in the role of a mentor, they will readily accept that.
  • If I micromanage and tell them to study in once specific manner, they will be more likely to reject that guidance which they already know does not apply to them.
  • If I ask them to step up and take charge of their successful studying, they will do so.
  • If I ask them to list those places where they study most effectively, they can do that.
  • If I ask them to note the times that their studying is most successful, they can readily do that.
  • If I ask them to determine the social setting that contributes to their most effective studying (e.g., with whom they study, if they study best alone, if their studying is successful surrounded by others or not), they can make this assessment.
  • If I ask them to describe the settings where their studying is most focused, they can identify the lighting, seating, sounds, table/desk, venue.

In this way, I as their professor serve more as a mentor, a guide, helping these young adults to think critically and to assess and differentiate what is constitutive of success or failure insofar as their studying is concerned. When students go through such a process of critical and creative thinking, they are excited to be agents of discovery and analysis, excited to be evaluating their behaviors and performance and determining what works best for them. Through the course of this exercise, students begin to step up and make more mature decisions and deliberative plans forward for their academic performance.

Let me mention one other example that shows the extent to which our young people (and certainly all nontraditional college students) need to be approached as adults and absolutely not a children. If we want our secondary and college/university students to make more mature choices, then it is crucial that institutional decision-making and course construction needs to view and approach students as the adults they are.

Even when high school and college students make immature choices, this is not because they are acting as foolish children but rather because they are behaving as immature adults in need of adult guidance.


The Effect of Interior Design for Collaborative Learning

In following along the principle that high school and college students are young adults and who, therefore, need to have more decision-making power in their pre-professional roles as secondary and tertiary students, this semester, I decided to invite my university students to assess the structure of a classroom and determine the most effective design for 1) seeing the classroom and front screen, 2) watching and listening to their professor, 3)  meeting and getting to know their fellow students a prospective pre-professional networking contacts, 4) working collaboratively with other students on in-class group and team assignments, and 5) being able to utilize time in class effectively when necessary to work individually.

The result of my students’ analysis of in-person room design for successful meetings, they all agreed that in the workplace, they had not experienced room design in which everyone sat in rows all facing the front. They agreed that the most common structure for large group meetings in the workplace were either around a table (for smaller groups) or facing the front but with everyone seated around small individual round tables for inter-personal interactions and discussion. This is actually one of the more common structures for large groups where a combination of focus on a keynote presentation is combined with group interaction.

The students all agreed that this sort of structure would heighten their focus and engagement in the class for they would be involved with the other students at their respective table each class period. They also agreed that such groups should change so that the students would get to know more people and so that they would focus more on classwork and less on merely sitting with friends (a potential distraction).

The classroom had individual desks, so we rearranged those into semicircular groups of 4-5 students so that they could work closely together but also easily focus on their professor and material at the front of the room without facing the wrong way. Once the students were grouped in this way, more akin to similar structures they had experienced in the workplace or at conferences, student focus during class periods began to change noticeably.

One crucial element of this change was that students were being asked to perceived themselves and each other as pre-professionals, getting to know each other each class period (those in their seated group) in terms of their majors, professional plans, key “take-aways” from the assigned homework of value to everyone in the class, and in terms of their collaborative work during that class period—whether discussion, collaborative writing exercise, or hands-on activity. Over the course of this semester, I will follow-up on the progress of this semesters’ classes with their new interior design re-org. For now, it is very promising and, actually, exciting seeing the students’ own excitement about a class that approaches them as pre-professional adults.

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