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November 19, 1961 - Image 15

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1961-11-19
Note:
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Methodical and Unimaginative Teaching Methods Stymie Students-.

A DAILY SPECIAL SECTION
ST ATE OF THE UNI-VERSITY-

The

Academic Jungle:

By MICHAEL OLINICK-
THERE IS A LEGEND about a Univer-
sity professor who begins his classes
precisely at 10 minutes past the hour with
his chalk poised at the upper left corner,
of one of those endless Angell Hall black-
boards.
His entire lecture is compressed into
equations and sentences which students
diligently copy into their notebooks as the
chalk marks move away from the window
and toward the door.
The story has it that as the lecture ends
at the bottom right of the board, the
professor drops the chalk and flees out
the door. The chalk hits the blackboard
ledge at the instant Burton Tower strikes
the first chime announcing a new hour.
SUCH MEMBERS of the faculty are rare
finds, as few have either the time or
the inclination to plan their lectures so
accurately. The majority, however-es-
pecially those who have taught the same
course one or more times, before-have
their subject material carefully divided
into 42 more or less equal installments,
two hour-long exams and a bolt to com-
plete the 15-week semester.-
A lively and original approach to the
classroom is more the exception than the
rule, although in past years the University
has been a leader in devising and imple-
menting new pedagogical means.
Some of the approaches considered
original when instituted by a particular
man two decades ago are still used today
by him to present essentially the same
material.
The avaricious book stores have yet to
sieze on the idea of buying used notebooks
and selling them again-at the usual
price hike. They would have the same
educational value as buying an already
underlined textbook and would probably
result in better grades.
They might also embarrass a lecturer---
long accustomed to staring at the dan-
druffed flocks of bent heads-who sud-
denly realizes his students as staring at
him with a look that indicates they al-
ready know everything he intends to say
for the next 50 minutes.
* * *
THE LEVEL of classroom teaching will
never reach the point where almost
every hour is intellectually stimulating
and valuable, for a number of reasons.
A certain amount of material that is
basic to a given course must be presented
to the students, and teachers will probably
always stick by the method of lecturing it.
For raw effectiveness in transmitting
knowledge in the classroom, the lecture
ranks supreme. Prof. Wilbert J. McKea-
chie, chairman of the psychology depart-
ment and the literary college curriculum
committee, reports that studies using tests
of the knowledge of subject matter as the
determining factor favor the lecture
method.
"Here as. elsewhere, there is no simple
answer to the question 'What teaching
method is best?'; research indicates that
we have to counter with the question 'Best
for what?' If our most important objective
is transmitting information, then we
should probably use lecture rather than
discussion; but if we are primarily con-
cerned with teaching critical thinking,
attitude change or other complex objec-

Lectures are often very, very dull

tives, discussion appears to be the better
choice."
What is really hampering classroom in-
struction is the college teacher's sad lack
of a real desire to teach in college. If one
examines the motivations which have
driven men into universities, the desire to
teach is obviously not the most important
one.
A college professor is one who hears the
"call" of a particular discipline which he
seeks to probe more deeply. The university
is one of the few places that allows men
to do this and-in a rare case-actually
encourages him.
The facts (from the Department of
Health, Education and Welfare) show
that faculty members can be classed in
three fairly distinct groups on the basis
of factors that chiefly influenced their
accupational decisions.
The smallest group-about one-quarter
of a selected sample-was the one which
put emphasis on the teaching role, rather
than on the opportunities for research.
A slightly larger group expressed a
strong allegiance to a discipline which
they felt could best be served by faculty
membership.
The discouraging statistic lies in the
motivation behind the third group. There
isn't any. The study shows that almost
half of the professors said they never
really aspired to be college teachers and
that they found themselves in this field
largely as a result of what seemed to be
chance happenings.
* '* *
FACULTY MEMBERS in different sub-
ject fields -also display somewhat dif-
ferent patterns of interest which at least
on this campus reflect the quality of
classroom teaching. Most natural science
teachers stress their enjoyment of learn-
ing and a strong desire for achievement
while those in the humanities tend to
emphasize a deeper concern for the teach-
ing function and a more personal rela-
tionship with the student.
Most University undergraduates will
testify that this is borne out in the drama
of the classroom. Social scientists and
humanists have a more relaxed attitude
at the head of a class, appear more at-
tuned to the events of the world, tell
more jokes and waste more time.
The physical and natural scientists, on
the other hand, are accused of stiffness
and an arid approach to the subject. A
class hour becomes 3,000 seconds of
thermodynamics or vertebrate anatomy
and nothing else. "It's as if some of them
are one-dimensional figures whose other
sides have been eliminated from view by

impenetrable iron planes," one embitter
mathematics major puts it.
Much of the poor teaching that occu
--particularly on freshman and soph
more levels-can be traced to the wide u
of teaching fellows to replace highe
ranking faculty members in elements
courses.
As the facutly-to-student ratio h
been climbing, so has the percentage
teaching fellows. Today at least one
every five instructors holds a gradua
teaching fellowship. Almost 30 per ce
of all classes at the University are led1
teaching fellows, a University where
per cent of the students are at the juni
level or above.
Because of either a firm commitment
academic freedom or lack of interest1
members of the senior faculty, the
teaching fellows receive a fairly hi
degree of independence in running the
classes. Although some departments r
strict teaching fellows to the sphere
the lecturer above them most enjoy son
measure of freedom.
This is fine for the teacher, but n
always productive for his students. The
is no better way to prepare for teachi
than to teach, and some beginning i
structors claim that explaining bas
easy material helps them get a firm
grasp on their discipline.
The students, however, resent plunki
down a couple of hundred dollars a s
mester only to receive a teacher who d
fers from them only in a handful of yea
courses and two initials at the end of Y
name. Complaints about teaching fello
range all the way from "He doesn't kn(
anything" to "He dates too many girls
the class."
THE TEACHER who's competent in]
subject, eager to teach and full
ideas on how to conduct a class runs in
the problem that frustrates so many
his senior colleagues: the distributionr
requirements.
He often finds elementary courses fill
with students who are there for a vari
of reasons, most commonly because th
believe this is the easiest way to grit a
the natural science or foreign langua
requisites for a baccalaureate degree.
The range of ability and interests
students in these courses is immense. Pr
fessors-the beginning ones, especially
are perplexed when they try to cho
which level to present material, dema
work and, the most painful decision
all, what grades to give out.
Veteran teachers often solve (?) t
problem by settling down to a dull med

crity which avoids shunting out the
lowest student. The more capable student
is siphoned off into the honors section
or hoarded by the professor for a stimu-
lating office hour or two.
Along this same line, are the individual
department's requirements that all who
seek .to major in the discipline take cer-
tain courses in it. David Reisman, in
his study "The College Student in an Age
of Organization," reports: "Sometimes
students complain about the pre-
requisites of the department, which serve
its monopolistic aims or protect its me-
diocre teachers from boycott, rather than
serve any defensible pedagogical aims."
GOOD CLASSROOM teaching - the
kind which imbues critical thinking-
necessarily contains a dialogue between
the students and their professor. A class-
room, not where everyone says the same
number of words, but one in which stu-
dents can feel free to question and a
teacher can discuss (not list) problems
with his class is the goal at which the
best teachers aim.
Obviously, the man who can make the
most intelligent comments in the room
is the instructor. Otherwise, the rest of
the people there would not be paying his
salary. The information he has to dis-
seminate, however, can be obtained
equally well out of books or the instruc-
tor's notes. What the teacher brings into
class is another ingredient: stimulation.
Here's how young psychology professor
Shephard A. Insel of San Francisco State
College describes it:
ed "The grestest excitement in the learn-
ing process exists for me when discovery
ars occurs. The student who achieves a new
s0- insight, who experiences that feeling of
-se 'aha!' and who gains one more sense
er- of personal reward for having ventured
ry into uncertainty, is the object of my
efforts."
Las * * *
of A BIG FACTOR in limiting the quality
at e of what goes on in the classroom has
te yet to be examined: the student.
nt Perennially crying out against the large
by lecture way of learning, students claim
70 they want smaller, more intimate classes
for with a great number of discussions.
Studies have shown, however, that stu-
to dents will select the larger, more rigid
by course. The student craves for a feeling
ese of security in the classroom. He wants to
gh know precisely what he is responsible for
eir --day to day-what exams there will be,
e- when papers are due and how long they
of must be, and a simple but clear point
me system to determine their grades.
University psychologists and sociolo-
Lot gists claim that students complain the
ere most about unstructured courses where
ng they don't know what is just ahead and
n- it is unclear as to how many people will
ic, get "B's" and how many "C's."
ier The complaints, however, are seldom
resolved into action. Certain teachers con-
ng tinue to be elected by students not be-
se- cause of ability or stimulation of course,
if- material, but for the fact that they fea-
rs, ture a simplified presentation and easy,
his personality-weighted grading..
ws The paradox of the student-complain-
ow ing about the poor classes and rejecting
in the good ones-is typified in the recol-
lections of seniors about their four under-
graduate years. English 123, universally

Led by University President Harlan Hatcher, the Regents discuss the University's futur
Financial 'Squeeze Thwarts Fui

By SUSAN FARRELL
THIS UNIVERSITY is slowly being
squeezed dry.
For it was created to provide low-cost,
high-quality education to any student
who would benefit-and, in the last few
years, it has become agonizingly difficult
to serve this function. It may soon be im-
possible.
The tension between the University's
obligation to provide low-cost education
and its obligation to make this educa-
tion of the highest quality heightens
yearly. The forces producing the tension-
increasing numbers of high school stu-
dents going on to college, a subsequently
increased demand for college teachers,
higher costs, legislative irresponsibility-
are beyond its control
The admissions problem is a nation-
wide one. At the University, only one-
third of those who apply can be admitted
if the quality of teaching is -to be main-
tained. Applicants who would have been
considered qualified as little as five years
ago are now turned away.
The quality of the student body is,
therefore obviously increasing. But pres-
sures for increased enrollment are build-
ing up in the Legislature.
At the same time, the nation-wide de-
mand for college teachers-good ones--
has greatly increased. Competition among
colleges and universities is intense, for
the supply is scarce. Salary, class load, re-
search facilities, other work demanded
(committee memberships, speeches to
alumni, administrative responsibility)
are all measurable factors in a professor's
decision to leave or stay at any institu-
tion. The non-measurable ones include a
school's general prestige, its reputation
is his particular discipline, possibilities
for future advancement, the school's
frankly indefinable spirit-its goals and
plans for reaching those goals, a zest for
and conviction in the future.'
A school that can't stay in the competi-
SUSAN FARRELL, personnel
director of The Daily, has been in
charge of reporting University af-
fairs for the newspaper. She is a
senior majoring in political science.
in the honors program.

tion for good faculty members stands to
lose.
Increasing costs also plague the Uni-
versity. Maintenance and equipment costs
and the wages that must be paid to
non-teaching personnel rise constantly.
Most important, research facilities and
the University's many libraries are being
neglected for lack of funds. Specialized,
advanced education-which the Univer-
sity does best and, consequently, which it
strongly emphasizes-is much more ex-
pensive than undergraduate, liberal arts
education. Technical journals and books,
space and facilities assume greater and
greater importance as students advance
in their education. But rising costs make
the provision of these necessities difficult.
On the undergraduate level, high costs
mean that the quantity and quality of
a teacher's tools-books which he uses to
awaken the minds of his students and
research which he undertakes to stretch
and sharpen his own mind-are severely
limited.
- * * *
WITHIN THIS FRAMEWORK of needs
and pressures, the University must
find a financial modus vivendi, a method
of operation which will allow it to serve
its historic function: low-cost, high-
quality education.
But to meet even its minimum critical
needs for the coming year, the University
must receive $45.9 million from the Legis-
lature.
University officials say quite frankly
this is the critical year. If it does not
receive enough money to substantially in-
crease all faculty salaries, the University
will suffer irrevocably, for it will be
drained of great minds-its most precious
resource.
The faculty has been patient and loyal
during the last five years. But offers
from business, industry and other edu-
cational institutions have been alarmingly
high this fall. The University cannot hope
to continue on the basis of attempting to
match outside offers. Already it has lost
renowned physical scientists. More re-
cently, social scientsist and professors
of the humanities have begun to leave.
And the men who leave are relatively
young, not yet at the fullness of their
intellectual powers. The loss will be felt
for nwany years.
Their reasons? An understandable de-
sire for fine research facilities, a weari-
ness with waiting and hoping, and in-

creasingly definable fear that the Uni-
versity is no longer standing still but is
decaying.
This year the administration has again
ranked increased salaries first on the list
of priorities in its appropriation request.
And the case is being argued more
strongly. But chances are slim for re-
ceiving the necessary $10 million increase
over last year's appropriation. The state,
very simply, does not have that much
money to allocate.
** *'
MICHIGAN'S TAX STRUCTURE is
clearly incapable of financing the
growing expenditures necessary for exist-
ing governmental programs. Its in-
adequacy is the product of economic,
constitutional and political factors whose
effect in the last few years has been
most vicious on higher education.
Failure of the tax system to meet the
state's needs is in large part the result
of fiscal legislation written into the con-
stitution. Sales tax revenues are con-
stitutionally earmarked almost entirely
for local governments. The state, having
no meaningful revenue left for its own
purposes from its major tax source and
without the benefits of a personal or
corporate income tax, must rely on a
hodge-podge of irrational taxes, unfairly
distributed.
State support for education has been
squeezed out of nuisance taxes now ex-
pired, but a vast highway expansion pro-
gram is financed by an earmarked tax on
gasoline.
** * e
MICHIGAN'S TAX SITUATION-and,
thus, the problems of its colleges and
universities-is to a large degree the re-
sult of the failure of its political parties
to serve as the vehicles of public policy.
Evasion of responsibility, narrowness of
mind, incredible parochialism and self-
interest have marked discussion of the
tax problem.
Michigan needs immediate and thor-
oughgoing tax revision. This means a
broad, equitable base for taxation, light-
ening the burden on business and indus-
try, attention to the steep regressiveness
of the tax structure, and weeding out the
tangled .underbrush of minor taxes. In
short, the creation of a rational, equit-
able and effective system of taxation.
This, in the last analysis, means con-
stitutional reform. But given the political
composition of the constitutional conven-

tion, sweeping
uation of hig
will probably
and the Univ
$45.9 million
standards of e
Greatly in:
for both instat
example-are
native source
versity has a d
mitment to to
And so the
sufficient stat
raised, profes
increasing nu
the faculty vi1
enough to ha
effect on Ur
students will
choice is a s
laborate in the
or to abandon
was created to
immoral.
So the Rege
(not enough t
turning) in on
to professors
because they
future).
When tuitic
half ago, the
of Regents wa
Power. "We v
low as possibl
and above ou
and its young
sibility of the
sity of Michig
sity. If we fal
in our duty a
students ... I
tive" than to:,
And there
There may be
next .. . and
S LOWLY th
stroyed--d
though legally
has abdicated
Low-cost, hi
an impossibit
comes only a
little choice. B
transcends th
sity. For the b
men will have
vision, but on

his
of
ato
of
re-
led
ety
ley
gut
ige
of
ro-
7--
ose
nd
of
his
io-

sometimes
rrquires long hours
Page Ten

Learning is
a lonely. pastime

THE MICHIGAN DAILY MAGAZINE SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 1961

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