Teaching, learning, and student success.

This Foothill College writing challenge has asked us to write about teaching, learning, and student success.

Thinking about ‘student success’ I wonder – are the participants in my classes ‘students’? They are, on the average, between 85-90 years old and long retired.

Although we commonly think of a student as someone who is studying or training at a university or college the definition is broader than that. A student is also defined as any person who “studies, investigates, or examines thoughtfully.”

My students are ‘learning for learning’s sake’. It is obtaining knowledge and expanding their world view that motivates them – there are no incentives such as grades or course credits. This make it easier to teach in some ways – everyone is there because they want to be – so there are no behavioral issues but also it is more demanding as their attendance is voluntary and they can drop the class at any time.

One colleague told me her goal is to offer a class that her students want to attend – to present materials and ideas that draw them in – to invite them to explore the topic on their own. “If my student’s return week after week – I know I am succeeding.” She said.

Teaching in the community program – teaching a non-credit, voluntary-attendance class – changes the game – and challenges me as an instructor in fundamental ways. My students don’t just view me as a means to an end – but are interested in what is happening in the here and now – in the present moment. When you are 90 years old – this is where you reside and meeting my students there creates a rich and satisfying learning environment for us all.


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