In one of my classes recently, we started getting some hands-on experience with PHP programming. I was happy enough about my first (very simple) script actually working that I tweeted about it. After class, I got to thinking about whether I could extend what we’d learned that evening and write a different (though very basic) script. When I had some time a few days later, I did a little searching for some information I needed, then gave it a try.
To my surprise and delight, it worked. That fact left me grinning the rest of the evening.
It also left me pondering how I might help my students have that same kind of “aha!” experience. I’d like my students—at least occasionally!—to have the satisfaction of learning something new and interesting, and really knowing that they’ve learned it. I’m in an enviable position at the moment: I’m in the class in question specifically because I want to learn what’s being taught in it. My students don’t always have the luxury of being in my particular class because they’ve chosen it (sometimes they have, but often they’re there because the course fulfills a general education requirement, or is required for the major, or fits their schedule, or . . . ).
Even in such a situation, though, I think it’s possible to help students have the kind of experience that I did. One way may be to give students a greater voice in determining what we learn in a course. Students are already involved in choosing the topics we study in my 100-level general education course, but I’ll be looking for ways to incorporate more student input even in courses where I have to be more directive about the syllabus.
Do you have other ideas to share? If so, please add them in the comments.