First-hand experience

January 3, 2013

Bruce Macfarlane seems unaware that the educator's role is to facilitate students' learning ("Be here now, or else: lamentable effects of student 'presenteeism'", Opinion, 13 December). In part, this involves the judicious application of both subject knowledge and pedagogical principles in order to structure a sequential and progressive programme whereby later, more advanced study revisits and builds upon concepts and methods encountered previously.

Irrespective of whether individual students have different learning styles, non-attendance impedes any attempt to work with a meaningful progressive syllabus. Presumably Macfarlane conceives of teaching as the one-way delivery of unconnected lectures to silent, passive listeners - a strikingly odd thing to hear from someone described as a professor of higher education.

I recently turned down a student's email request for me to comment on a pre-submission draft of a coursework essay on the grounds that he had not attended my lectures or seminars during the previous two weeks and had offered neither explanation nor apology. Putting aside the question that Macfarlane raises of whether this implies disrespect on either side, does he think it would be an effective use of my time to have done otherwise?

Finally, I suspect that Macfarlane, as he works at the University of Hong Kong, is not subject to the demands arising out of the potential consequences of the National Student Survey - far more pernicious "surveillance", as he terms it, than taking an attendance register.

If my colleagues and I are going to be rated according to criteria such as explaining things clearly and making courses "intellectually stimulating", then the least we should expect from those passing judgement is first-hand experience.

Nigel Morris, Principal lecturer in media theory, Faculty of Media and Humanities, University of Lincoln.

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