Engaging curriculum vital for students’ education

Emily Vernon

Large lecture halls often feel monotonous and dreary, leaving students bored and unengaged. While this classic teaching style has endured for decades, it’s not necessarily the most beneficial to students. Education can be both fun and serious. All you need is an engaging curriculum and a willing professor.

Active learning situations have many benefits, but perhaps one of the greatest is handing students more control over their education. This is vital in college and perhaps serves as one of the greatest preparations for the ever-so-ominous real world students are constantly reminded of. When we enter the workforce, we’re not going to be sitting in 100-person lectures all day, and participation isn’t always going to mean speaking in front of large crowds. Most of us aren’t going to be professors, and it’s important that our professors keep this in mind.

Professors at UT in particular have access to numerous world-class resources to further class engagement. Take UT’s museums, for example.

For my freshman UGS class, my professor took us to the Briscoe Center for American History at the beginning of the semester and later assigned a project that required research at the Center. This taught me how to do archival research, and gave me a sense of accomplishment with my personal work and excited to have similar experiences throughout college. The only other similar experience came last year when my Spanish class visited the Blanton Museum of Art for a tour of Latin American art. It only took up a day’s class, but it excited students and gave us an opportunity to digest what we had learned that semester in a different, more practical way.

Between the Blanton, the Briscoe Center, the Harry Ransom Center and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, UT’s campus houses world-class museums. Incorporating them into classes is just one of the many ways professors can create a more engaging class and allow students a degree of autonomy in their education.

That’s not to say there aren’t steps that can be taken on a daily basis as well. Many professors are interesting lecturers, but lectures often accompany large, in-class conversations between 100-plus students — many of which feel voiceless and, in turn, apathetic. Increasing small group work would not only force the students to carry the conversation but encourages collaborative work — a useful life and work skill. Engagement, even if forced, is beneficial to those who may otherwise neglect to raise their hand in a large lecture hall.

Putting students at the center of their education supports active learning and personal control over one’s education. While not every class can be interactive, professors should consider options for further student engagement. A message is only as successful as the hearer deems it to be, meaning it’s vital that student needs are heavily considered in education.

Vernon is an anthropology and rhetoric and writing junior from The Woodlands.