Faculty and administrators can help the 18.4 million students heading back to college in the next few weeks get the most out of their academic time, write two Elon University leaders for The Conversation.
"While college should ultimately prepare graduates to make a living, it can be—it must be—far more than that," write President Leo Lambert and Assistant Provost Peter Felten. "The good news is that there are simple yet powerful things students can do to ensure that they have a transformative undergraduate experience, no matter where they go to college."
Lambert and Felten identify the two most important things faculty and administrators should remind students:
1. Understand they are responsible for their own learning; and
2. Build deep relationships.
Many students arrive on campus with the notion that they can master a subject simply by finishing their homework each day. But "real learning" depends on students delving deeper into the topic, Lambert and Felten argue.
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"Meaningful learning emerges from a proactive conception of knowledge, where the student's goal is to experiment with new and unexpected ways of using what he or she is learning in different settings," they write.
Lambert and Felten also encourage students to seek out friends with different backgrounds and opinions. Research has found that students who interact with diverse peers display more social and intellectual growth over their college time.
"As with learning, students need to move beyond the familiar to find meaning," Lambert and Felten write.
It's also important for students to build relationships with professors and other mentors. Research conducted by Gallup, Purdue University, and the Lumina Foundation found six elements that have a significant effect on students' post-graduation success—two of the elements deal with professor relationships.
"Powerful education, in other words, is available to all students at all institutions, if they intentionally choose experiences that are challenging and relationship-rich," they write (Lambert/Felten, The Conversation, 8/15).
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