The two universities could not be more different.
One university was founded in 1579; today it serves over 23,000 students. The other university was founded in 1991; today it serves nearly 780 students.
One university offers programs strictly focused on biochemistry or Asian studies or criminology. The other university bases its programs on a liberal art model of education, endeavoring to offer a well-rounded education, preparing students for job shifts in a fast paced, global market.
The buildings of one university are monuments to the past, thick-walled fortresses with long hallways and tall, closed doors. The buildings of the other university are modern, with functional architecture, open spaces and plenty of windows for natural light.
Are the students in both universities fundamentally different? I say, not necessarily.
I teach at the “other university.” Recently, I was invited to teach seminars at the “one” university.
Early into my presentation, I instinctively knew that these young people were similar to the young people at my home institution. Some were shy, some were talkative, and some were sleepy. The same as my students. A sharp freshman in the front row eagerly answered my open-ended questions which were meant for the whole class. Same. The students needed encouragement to take notes. Same. Students were unsure what to do with their devices. Should they take out their laptops? Should they put away their phones? They needed simple instructions about devices which they politely followed. Same. They laughed at my jokes (mostly). Same. Because of the “sameness,” I quickly engaged with the students because I was on familiar ground.
Throughout the lesson, I was meta-thinking. Does “think-pair- share” work here? Yes. Does it help to step away from the speaker? Yes. Can students remember key points from the beginning of the session, if prompted? Yes. Do students get distracted if the lecturer speaks non-stop for more than 4 minutes? Yes. Same. Same. Same.
I am aware that I can’t make too many judgments based on my single experience. However, this realization struck me hard.
Universities may look quite different on the outside; but I would argue that, in many ways, the students are essentially the same. They are bright, young people, navigating their course assignments, social media apps, and the potential for online employment. And it is for these students that we, instructors, love our jobs wherever we teach.
Press ESC key to exit