Active classes in, lectures out

Castleton State College offers its students a wide selection of courses to choose from. There’s everything from Script Workshop to Environmental Ethics, Organic Chemistry to Pickleball, but there’s always something for everyone. Regardless of the curriculum, however, the ways in which these lessons are presented to young collegiate minds is what makes all the difference.

A total of 100 Castleton students were selected at random and were asked whether they preferred an active style of teaching or a standard style of lecturing from their instructors.

Of the students surveyed, 69 percent said they preferred the active style of teaching, with lots of classroom discussions and student-teacher interactions. And although the active style requires more class participation, many students said that they learned better when more interactions were involved.

“I like an active style of teaching that’s engaging,” said senior Mike Mamunes, “If I’m just sitting there getting lectured, I’ll zone out.”

Of the remaining 31 students, five didn’t have a preference at all, and 26 preferred the lecturing style of teaching, which involves more note taking and has less interactions.

“Some days I’m tired and just not in the mood for class discussion,” said senior Trishia Fellows. “But other days it’s just boring to just have a lecture.”

Some classes go above and beyond boring, students said, while others seem to stimulate and create good responses.

Chris Boettcher’s Intro to Literature class usually begins each morning sitting in your typical style of rows and columns. Often students will find themselves rearranging their desks into a circle for better classroom discussion. Boettcher not only asks for feedback, but also encourages his students to give suggestions on how to make future classes better.

“If the teacher is enforcing a discussion that the students find boring, then it’s pointless and ineffective,” said senior Cameron Audia. “Active discussions can be productive, but only if the topic is stimulating.”

Journalism professor David Blow tries to stimulate his students by using a conversational approach with his lessons and encourages his students to get to know the material in front of them.

“I like to give a foundation with the text and my experiences,” he said.

Blow does what he has to do to get his students motivated. He’ll pace around the room flailing his arms, only stopping for a moment to check the cell phone that’s attached to his hip to see how much class time is left.

“I just like to see students engaged,” said Blow. “If it means me jumping around and acting all animated, then so be it.”

Psychology professor Shannon Raino shares Blow’s enthusiasm.

“I love lots of class participation,” said Raino. “But when students don’t come prepared it’s hard to do anything but lecture.”

Raino incorporates both PowerPoint presentations and group activities to achieve the goals of her lesson plans, but she also says that it’s tough getting people to participate.

The question then becomes how do you get students to actively participate and become more involved?

Professor Tom Rutkowski uses a wide array of teaching methods, varying from lectures, group work, oral reports, oral Q&A sessions and computer usage to try and help cater to each student’s preferences.

“I like to relate real work examples to textbook materials,” Rutkowski said.
Some of his business students have even gone as far as to name his tales, “Rutkowski stories.”

“I also enjoy bringing humor into the classroom,” said Rutkowski, adding he also enjoys working individually with students in hopes of getting them to succeed.
But Rutkowski isn’t the only teacher who teaches with a nice balance of styles in hopes of getting more out of his students.

According to the infamous Web site, where students can leave feedback and comments about their teachers, History professor Jonathon Spiro was described as “a truly brilliant and devoted professor, making sure all of his students do his or her best to succeed.”

“I think that Spiro is an amazing professor,” said social studies major Kayla Blank. “Having an instructor who is so passionate and knowledgeable about his work, it’s simply wonderful.

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