The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Meadows professor takes teaching to a whole new level

When preparing for class, Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts José Bowen only has one thing in mind: teach naked. And he’s encouraging his fellow professors to do the same.

The dean is spreading the idea to teach naked: walk into the classroom without a concrete plan for the 50 minutes and have an engaging conversation with students.

To do this, a professor must get out of his or her normal area of comfort. For many, this safety zone is lecturing in front of the class for 50 minutes. What needs to happen instead, according to Bowen, is the engagement of students with face-to-face interaction. The teacher then loses the security of a plan, but gives students an advantage to ask questions and discuss.

In order to discourage the “passive PowerPoint,” computers and podiums have been taken out of some Meadows classrooms, but there are still capabilities for a teacher to hook up his laptop. Desks have also been replaced with tables with wheels – which Bowen compares to an elementary school classroom – but they work for an effective learning environment.

Sarah Allen, a music education professor, believes these changes to be advantageous for conversation.

“With those large, formal podiums gone from the front of every classroom, there’s certainly a greater sense of connection between teacher and student. I find this in my classes of all sizes,” Allen said.

As far as structuring the class everyday, “a lot of [teachers] lecture because it’s easy,” Bowen said. “That used to be an efficient way of conveying information.”

However, Bowen has concerns about the ease and economic advantages of online learning. “The nature for college is changing,” because information is so easy to put online – this is where Meadows, and other schools and universities, are able to give a student more, Bowen said.

The biggest issue is for the professor to take a risk, according to Bowen. For a student to get the best education, professors need to go outside of the comfort of simply lecturing, and walk into the classroom without knowing what will come out of it, because an engaging conversation with students isn’t planned out.

“If you’re a mesmerizing speaker and people walk out of your classroom inspired, well of course you should continue doing that,” he said, but there are also other ways of teaching.

A concern of the dean is that some professors speak for 48 minutes, then ask if there are any questions. One way to make those 48 minutes of lecture and two minutes of questioning into 50 minutes of discussion is for the professor to make podcasts for students to listen to before class. Students then come to class ready to discuss the material.

Before students worry that their lecture class just doubled in time for the week, Bowen said that this is an interesting medium for teaching. Lecturing doesn’t have to be the only thing on it; a teacher can include music, speeches or anything else relevant.

While this provides more time for the professor to teach, it more importantly gives more time in class to discuss. However, just like reading, students need to do the homework.

“When students come to class unprepared, there is very little a teacher can do,” he said.

Meadows junior Allison Prenger said some teachers manage to get their students to read before class, making it easier to have discussions during class time.

For one of her classes, they “have to read and he calls on us,” she said. “Although it makes me read every night before class, I like the class so much more because it’s rewarding, and I actually learn something rather than memorize it.”

According to Bowen, the real challenge and goal is figuring out what works best for the students – what is going to engage them enough to not only do the homework, but to come to class wanting to ask questions, discuss, and learn further.

Bowen believes there is “a willingness” among teachers for new ideas in teaching, even though most haven’t been exposed to this kind of model.

“Teachers can do what they want,” Bowen said, but the issue is up for debate. The main goal is to find what works best for the students.

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