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Don't be Afraid to Ask the Students

Bunny Paine-Clemes, Ph.D

Department of General Studies
California Maritime Academy

"If assessment is to improve the quality of student learning, and not just provide greater accountability, both faculty and students must become personally invested and actively involved in the process."
(Angelo and Cross 323)

"Don't be afraid to ask the students!"
(Graduating senior at Cal Maritime Academy)

On March 22, 2000, about twenty members of the Associated Students Organization assembled to critique our general education program. At that meeting the focus group members made four main suggestions aimed at improving the quality of student learning.
  1. "Hands-On" Activities: This suggestion received the strongest endorsement. When asked what they meant by "hands-on," students gave these examples from past courses:

    • memorizing and acting out a scene from Shakespeare;
    • engaging in small group discussions, especially critical thinking exercises: i.e., breaking apart the Valdez disaster, with one group analyzing what happened with the Coast Guard; a second group with the captain; a third with the legal implications; and a spokesperson reporting the findings to the class;
    • doing group design projects or panel discussions.

In essence, the students recommended strategies for active learning and adamantly complained of lectures being "boring."

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