Much like a lunar eclipse, teachable moments can feel like you’re searching for the needle in that haystack of undergrads. I have the pleasure of reporting on a teachable moment. Why take the time to say “woo-hoo!!!?” Because we need them to keep going. Article acceptances are great, grants are vital, but it truly does boil down to how we interact with our students sometimes. It’s not an every day occurrence for any of us who are scanning the classroom to see if anybody is truly “there” with us.
I have the good fortune of teaching a seminar course about my favorite thing: undergraduate research. So many of our students don’t understand how much research affects them and their every day lives. From the food choices they make, to the smart phones they snapchat on, research is driving their lives. They don’t know what it’s like to not sit in a car seat when they were young. And all of our lives are because of research.
I’m not blowing this out of proportion and the first few weeks of my research class, I encourage students to think about everything they do, the ways they function, and tie it back to research. There’s no better lesson for me than to have students try to come up with things that haven’t been touched by research.
We then move into misconceptions about research, which is where things get real for many of them.
As class was wrapping up, a student was packing their bag and said, “I was watching the news & bc of your class, I can’t watch it the same way anymore.” She picked up what I was putting down and applied it to her real, present life.
While some of you may go “ho-hum, whatever crazy lady,” it was a true win for me. I’m a reflective thinker so it did take me two full days to actually process that nugget and smile to myself (and share on FB), but I couldn’t help myself. I was so excited. My goal for this course is NOT to change their belief system, it’s to make them question it for themselves. It’s tough.
While discussing misconceptions we’ve unpacked the notion that “we aren’t here to change anyone’s mind, we’re here to first find out why they think the way they do.” From big topics like GMO’s and vaccines, to more individualized topics like morality, research has informed us for a long time. Teaching them to conduct ethical, moral, and transparent research is my game.
I may not create another impactful and reflective teachable moment for weeks. I hope I do, but I thought I’d take this Friday to celebrate a personal teaching win.