The second chapter of Ken Bain’s What the Best College Teachers Do, ends with a great statement

The best college and university teachers create what we might call a natural critical learning environment in which they embed the skills and information they wish to teach in assignments (questions and tasks) students  will find fascinating – authentic tasks that will arouse curiosity, challenging students to rethink their assumptions and examine their mental models of reality.

This is a great challenge to us as academics.  Do we produce assignments that our students find fascinating?  I think for one of my classes this semester I have, though I am guilty of not doing so in the past.

To reflect on this for my own experiences is a different issue.  The hardest papers I ever wrote for Fuller Seminary were short, 5 pages or so, theological reflections on specific issues.  I did not always do well but they did keep my love for the unit alive.  Similarly where I have had options to consider different areas I have enjoyed the material more.  Choice however is not always a good thing.  I have had one student this semester come to me and say “please choose my topic for me.”  This surprised me and while possibly a reflection on the student it may reflect other issues going on.

The reality is our mental models change slowly and those who I have enjoyed most have led us through this change process, or put up the warning signs, “Here be dragons, enter at your own risk” but let us know it was an issue.

So how have good teachers challenged you to learn?

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