Skip to main content

“We Don’t Know…”


Image by CollegeDegrees360 on

“Maybe it’s just me…but I don’t know the purpose of this course and what we are supposed to be learning,” the timid young student in the back of the classroom quietly says.  Thirty heads nod in agreement as they turn to look back at me.

I try to remain neutral as I ask the students to tell me more.  This is a nightmare scenario for every professor and I want to find out why they aren’t understanding the purpose so that I can help the course’s professor get things back on track.  You see, in preparing for the Mid-term Chat, I read the syllabus and know that the purpose of the course  and why it relates to their major is written right there on the second page.

The room becomes noisy as the students start speaking at once, eager to share their frustration about this issue.  The gist of it is that they are reading a lot, watching videos, completing case studies, and working in groups but they aren’t seeing the connection of what they are doing with what they think is the purpose of the course.

I am relieved as I listen to the students.  This is an easy fix.

When I meet with the professor a few days later, I encourage her to be very explicit in how each of their learning activities relates back to the learning outcomes for the course, the big picture of the program, and their future careers.

A few weeks later, I run into a group of students from the class while in the library.  They gush about their professor and tell me that everything makes sense now that they know how all of their learning activities relate to the class and their major.

CTLT Coordinator, Faculty Development, Julie-Ann McFann, Ph.D.

This story is not based on an actual event but is a composite of a typical experience I’ve had over the years when getting feedback from students.  The purpose of creating this composite is to remind faculty that they need to be explicit in explaining how everything fits together and why they have chosen the learning activities.  It will make your life easier to be very explicit.  Trust me on this.