Should students expect the best from their instructors, if the school promises they are highly qualified and will provide a positive learning experience? I used to think that ineffective educators make a poor representation of their school and could create a negative impression for their students; however, it seems that students have almost become used to experiencing a wide range of instructors and they have become proficient with tuning out those who they perceive are ineffective. Some students have even taken to social media to express their frustrations, and there are websites that allow them to provide both feedback and ratings for instructors. I have looked at those websites and it is difficult to determine if the instructor was at fault or the students are not receiving the outcomes they expected. Whatever the reason, there was something that was left unresolved and that created frustration on the part of the students.
This is similar to end-of-course instructor evaluations that students are often given to complete. I have observed a very low return rate with online students, and the reason for completion of the form was often related to being extremely satisfied or dissatisfied with the course outcomes. I know that some schools base teaching assignments on the evaluation outcomes and it is a source of frustration for many instructors – especially when they have done their best and still have an occasional unhappy student. But what I have also noticed is that the more I focus on what I am doing in the classroom, rather than on trying to make students happy so they will give me a good rating, the better my evaluations have been overall. When I am determined to make a difference for the learning experience of my students, over time the number of positive responses tells the entire story of my teaching effectiveness.
Whether you are interested in developing academic or subject matter expertise as an educator, the most important aspect of your instructional practice needs to be on the strategies you use to meet the developmental needs of your students. They are only going to persist and realize their potential if you encourage them in a supportive manner. Your disposition will influence the tone of what you say and what you write, and this can build up, empower, and motivate your students to do well. You can make a difference for your students by looking at your role as more than a series of tasks to complete, and nurturing a proactive, positive approach to how you interact with your students. Even if you never know the full extent of how you have made a positive impact, you will likely develop some long term connections that remind you of the value you brought to the classroom – and that will make your hard work feel very rewarding.