By Emily Cook, TLS staff writer
Walking into one of Professor Simon Power’s classrooms, you won’t find tablets or a touch screen, but you may just find a minimum of three blackboards.
Professors don’t need anything more than words and some chalk to engage students, he says, as long as they’re good teachers themselves.
“In order to get students engaged, the professors have to be engaged. That perhaps is more important,” says Power.
Power, who has been teaching in Carleton’s Department of Economics for 27 years, has applied that attitude to all of his teaching methods. Earlier this year it earned him a 2015 Provost’s Fellowship in Teaching Award for sustained excellence in teaching.
Power says a huge part of teaching is having empathy with students. During lectures he watches students’ reactions and adjusts his teaching based on how well he perceives them to be following. He says he checks to see if they understand, what points are lost on them, and how he can explain things in a new way so they keep up.
“I like to think of myself as ‘actively lecturing’,” Power says.
Creating personal connections with students and collecting feedback is a crucial element of Power’s teaching. He says he’s developed little tricks to learn how students are doing, like asking them if they’re happy, rather than if they understand. He says that’s because few students would admit to a teacher they don’t understand something.
“The more feedback I get, the more I’m able to adapt or respond, to make my teaching more effective,” says Power.
In his classes, Power says he encourages students to motivate themselves by teaching them why they should care about material they’re learning. Overall, he says a successful lecture happens when a professor reads the classroom and cares about the students’ development and learning.
“I personally think that constant interaction with the feedback is the optimal way to do it,” he says.
Because of this teaching method, Power says he never teaches one class the same way, and is constantly learning from new students who bring new perspectives to the material.
“If you’re interested in teaching, and you care about the students, and care about them learning the material, then you tend almost automatically to try and improve what you’re doing all the time.”