Reciprocity in the Classroom

"You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room." — Dr. Seuss


I love to find a loud classroom when I enter to teach a course. To me, it means the students have arrived early, they've already made some friends and connections, and the room is reverberating with energy as a result. It also ensures the students don't expect me to talk "at" them in lecture format for the whole class. While it is my job to teach in an engaging mannger, it is the students' role to actively learn.

Much has been written about the more traditional lecture style of "sage on the stage" teaching vs. a more interactive and participatory style of education, so I won't repeat it here. However, the role of the student in active learning is also relevant. Active learning can take place in the classroom by incorporating case studies, debates, discussions, team work, etc. and it can extend beyond the school to incorporate field trips, co-op education, and community-based activities.

The aspect of learning that I find many students struggle with is bringing a consumer mentality to the classroom. Many believe that the teacher is there to deliver a product that the students' pay for and consume; their only role is to show up in class every day and "try." The concept of reciprocal learning encourages a partnership between teachers and fellow students which includes responsibilities for students in managing their education and helping others. It's recognized that teachers also learn in every course, and should not be expected to only provide content delivery and grading services.