A recent article by Susan Cook and Karen Krupar (2010) shows the changing socio-economic dynamics of current college students: as a result we need to rely on different types of teaching styles to address the changes. Here are two different but memorable ones. About ten years ago I saw a shift in the classroom population and the mix of new cultural diversity while teaching various relational communication classes.

To illustrate: One of my students, a young international woman was residing with her mother, and the mother became ill and died. The young woman escorted her mother's body home to the Caribbean for burial. When she returned to school, she assumed she would have to drop my course because of missed time. Instead, she and I worked together, turning her missed work into an insightful learning experience.

In light of the changing dynamics of the classroom, I started to think of more relevant materials I could use in a short segment of time: sometimes lessons are taught in a single class period, offering more "ah-hah" moments of self-discovery. Although lecturing reaches large classrooms, learning is also absorbed through auditory, tactile, or visual preferences and experiences.

Recently, the discussion in my class on Communication and the Media covered television, and I asked the students to estimate the lengths of the commercials during a program. They gave me their estimates; I gave them an assignment of watching three television shows while keeping track of the number and types of commercials to test their estimates and see if they would have an insightful moment and create awareness of television time-formats.

At the next class, they compared shows and time segments. They each arrived at their own moments of "ah-hah." When we discussed television viewer patterns of ‘grazing' or ‘zapping' or ‘zipping' they could relate to their preferences and watching patterns. This teachable moment was a success: It reached the unique demographics and became a common thread that connected the cultural diversity of the class.

As an educator, my own ‘ah-hah' was to reflect on the power of insight and how we often let the moments slip by. As a parent, how many moments do we miss each day? Finally, do we even recognize the positive differences in the changing relational dynamics?

About the Author

Jeanne Christie, Ed.D., Ph.D.

Jeanne Christie, Ed.D., Ph.D., is an adjunct professor in communications at Western CT State University and at Manhattanville College.

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