"I Learn as Much from My Students as My Students Learn from Me"

This sentiment is repeated often by teachers, but what does it really mean? Is the teacher’s learning the same kind of learning as the students’? A well-planned class has explicit goals for what the students will learn, but is the instructors’ learning intentional, or an occasional happy accident?

Students who enter a class with the conviction that they have nothing more to learn will limit their learning experience in a self-fulfilling cycle. The same can be said for teachers if they approach a class without their own learning goals in place. In her Teaching Professor blog, Maryellen Weimer argues in favor of an early and open examination of these goals. She lists four different questions to ask about classroom learning, citing Aron Reppmann’s method of establishing “reciprocity of learning”: What does the instructor want the students to learn? What do the students hope to learn? What does the instructor want to learn? And what do the students hope that the instructor will learn? There may be differences between the instructor’s and students’ stated goals, but these differences will often be illuminating or provocative in and of themselves. This conversation can be facilitated with a grid like the one that Reppmann uses with his class for this purpose: Create your own with this editable PDF.

Reppmann’s strategy is not only an effective way of clearly communicating and providing the rationale behind the course learning objectives, but it also provides a springboard to talking about how much you value your students’ participation and their subsequent roles in guiding and influencing the directions the class will take.