The open classroom initiative, spearheaded by two professors and supported by many others, is now underway, allowing professors to attend select College classes regardless of their status or department affiliation. We at the Record commend our faculty for this exciting decision. It is clear that our faculty wishes to expand its knowledge and teaching styles to benefit students by observing the work of others, which is a reflection of the innovative and engaged professors that we are privileged to have here at the College. Our professors are stressing the importance of sharing information and learning from others rather than the importance of ownership of ideas that might be deemed explicitly private at the College. We hope that professors from a variety of disciplines will make their class spaces available for this new initiative and provide the key to a valuable learning experience. When professors return to their own classroom settings, they may view these rooms with a fresh perspective.
While we are aware that professors will attend classes with the intention of observing, we hope that they might consider not only observing pedagogy, but also participating as a student in class discussion. We believe this would add to classroom diversity; the variety in ages, life experiences and academic knowledge infused by the participation of professors mixed with students would spark engaging discussions in the classroom and beyond. A classroom where a visiting professor is actively engaged in the material might even prompt regular class auditors to raise their voices in the discussion as well, giving the historically passive position fresh legs.
However, we also wonder if the arrival of professors in the classroom may make students nervous to voice their opinions in class due to the academic hierarchy between a student and a professor. Will students hesitate to participate when they glance down the row of desks and spy their English professor jotting down notes? While this is plausible, the benefits from professors learning from other professors as well as hopefully engaging with students while attending classes far outweigh the possible consequences.
Overall, we believe that professors observing other classrooms is a pioneering step at the College that will expand the reach of academics outside of the traditional classroom setting. We’re eager to see how professors utilize this new program going forward.