Oct 122003
Authors: Aaron Brachfeld

It was a beautiful and sunny day on the Lory Student Center

Plaza and Adam Cole was playing the guitar while talking to a

friend. He had a test in one hour but was not studying, and he said

if he went to class it would have been the first time he attended

all semester.

“When you can get notes online, and you’ve got a good textbook,

you can home-school your way through four years no problem,” said

Cole, a junior biomedical sciences major.

John Weiss, a business professor, also questions the value that

students may receive from their teachers.

“While I believe that if a student is here for an education they

should prioritize their education higher in all instances, I can

understand why they don’t,” said business instructor Weiss who,

like other teachers interviewed, admits to having skipped class

occasionally as an undergraduate. “Sometimes I think students also

skip because they don’t perceive value in what they’re getting from

class. And so it’s incumbent upon me to deliver good value for


Delivering value for Weiss means taking greater responsibility

for the education of his students.

“What I think a student should get out of class is something

that they could not get anywhere else under any other circumstance.

If I’m just reciting the textbook and not helping explain it, if

I’m not answering questions or giving them examples or different

view points, then I agree: there isn’t any value to class,” Weiss

said. “So for the majority of my students, my job is to motivate

them to be willing to engage themselves in the topic, and say to

them ‘it’s worth you putting the effort, because I can help you get


But sometimes too much value can be given.

“I don’t think students don’t want zero work, or zero stress.

They want work and challenge, but they want a reasonable amount and

not too much,” said Steve Davies, a professor in the agricultural

and resource economics department. Knowing just how much is too

much can be difficult because “you only know it’s too much when

they scream,” Davies said.

And learning is painful, Weiss said.

“We don’t really want to think any more than we have to to get

by, and because learning’s painful, my job isn’t really so much to

reduce the pain but to mitigate it to the point where it’s

worthwhile for students to pursue learning…like a coach,” Weiss


Weiss also said that it is hard to motivate everyone at the same


“I’ve got to pick that student out there who’s in the middle of

the class and say, ‘who is that person, and how can I get them to

maybe ratchet their game up a little bit?’ because the people at

the bottom are not going to come with me and the people at the top

are already there.”

Soledad Francis, a Spanish professor, acknowledges that much

responsibility lies with the teacher, but sees each subject as

different with some requiring significantly greater investments

from the student.

“A student may think class is just a waste of time because they

can just study by themselves,” Francis said. “But you can see the

difference between someone who’s been in class and someone who’s

not because they’ll not know what we’ve talked about and placed

emphasis on because they’ve missed those things.”

Even if some classes require fewer investments from the student,

ultimately it is the student’s choice whether to skip classes.

Carly Dorman, a sophomore rangeland ecology major, has skipped

class three times.

“I figure that I’m paying for it, so I might as well get the

most for my money,” Dorman said.

And education is sometimes made more difficult by the limits

within which teachers are able to work.

“I used to err on the side of helping those on the lower end

because the upper end always gets it anyway,” Davies said. “But I’m

changing. I’m deciding over time that people who are putting the

work in deserve the most support and attention because the amount

of work I could put into the lower end is limited and it doesn’t

seem to make much difference.”




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