Educator shares 'Terms of Engagement' tips at Victoria College

Jan. 12, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 11, 2013 at 7:12 p.m.

Elizabeth Barkley

Elizabeth Barkley

Getting students motivated to learn and become active participants in their own education was part of Elizabeth Barkley's presentation during Victoria College's 2013 Spring Semester Convocation.

Barkley, an internationally known scholar, author, educator and consultant, teaches music history at Foothill College in Los Altos, Calif.

She told VC faculty and staff that students are active participants in building their own brains. But before they get to that point, they must first be motivated to learn.

"Students should care about what they think and think about what they care about," Barkley said.

Barkley's presentation coincides with the college's work to develop and implement a Quality Enhancement Plan, a required component of the college's reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Active learning is the program's topic, summarized with the slogan "Students Engaged in Active Learning."

Illustrating her talk with a humorous slide presentation, Barkley discussed terms of engagement on how to get students to participate in their own education.

The California instructor said she wanted to teach her students about Beethoven but found "their musical heroes were Tupac and Nine Inch Nails."

Barkley admitted that there is no quick fix to get students engaged. She said educators cannot motivate students, but they can create the context in which more students find motivating.

She said all educators are facing the same basic challenges. Many grew up in an era when information was important, and education was often the answer for gaining new information, she said. Today, students are overloaded with information, often in entertaining forms. Different approaches are required to get students to apply knowledge they've already gained and combine it with new information being learned in the classroom, she added.

In her classes, Barkley developed what she called a good student bonus, which "helps me promote the behavior I like," and the junk effort penalty, to "discourage things I don't like."

She cited an extreme example of one instructor who used the latter technique when a student turned in a paper full of errors. The teacher took out a match and burned the offending paper then put the ashes in an envelope and returned it to the student. Barkley said she didn't think VC faculty would want to do that but stressed that students need to understand the importance of putting effort into their work.

In an afternoon workshop for faculty, Barkley presented her theoretical model for student engagement.

"Her methods had been tried and modified over the years," said David White, a VC physics and mathematics professor who has been teaching at VC for 29 years. "This is how we want to construct the QEP by bringing in people like her to share techniques to engage students in critical thinking."

Jonathan Anderson, associate professor and men's basketball coach, echoed White.

"She talked with us not to us," Anderson said. "I appreciated her enthusiasm and her inflection. She wasn't afraid to be herself."

Tempi McLeod, QEP director, said "that's the kind of experience I want the QEP to be. Something meaningful, relevant and that a faculty member can take and implement in their classroom.

"We want the QEP experience to be a positive reinforcement and growth experience as our faculty take best practices and own them," McLeod said.



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