The Weekly Teaching Note

From the Cal Poly Pomona Faculty Center for Professional Development

The Stakeholders’ Exercise

Posted by weeklyteachingnote on November 25, 2008

Keeping students motivated is a constant struggle for teachers. “Trust me, you need to learn this,” is what we’d like to say, but we all know how (in)effective that argument is! Especially at the last couple of weeks of the quarter.

One professor of criminal justice decided to help his students see that he is not the only person who cares whether they learn or not. Every time he begins a new unit, he asks his students to brainstorm the different groups of people who might be affected by how well the students master the material.

For example, when beginning a unit on domestic violence, his students came up with this list of stakeholders in their learning:

  • Themselves, their supervisors, their partners, and their own families
  • Courts, police, lawyers, medical staff
  • Victim or victims, victims’ children and relatives
  • Suspect and suspect’s relatives
  • Neighbors

They could have gone on to say, “The whole world,” maybe, but the point is clear: Students’ learning is not just about them.

The professor who created the exercise also found two more benefits: students come to see that their instructor is responsible to the same stakeholders for the students’ learning. And, they come to realize that his teaching strategies are carefully selected based on his beliefs about learning. In other words, he would not ask them to do the learning activities he requires if he did not deeply believe it was the best way.

Now, criminal justice is pretty compelling all on its own (or else why are we watching those Law and Order re-runs?). But for every class that students take, other people are invested besides them and their instructors.

For example – who cares whether engineers learn calculus? Everyone who drives over a bridge! Who cares whether engineers learn history or political science? Everyone who might lose or gain something based on where, how, and for whom a bridge is built. Who cares whether art majors learn astronomy? Well, Vincent van Gogh did paint The Starry Night .

The idea for the Stakeholders Exercise came from the National Education Association Advocate Online ( http://www2.nea.org/he/advo-new/bestprac.html , verified 24 November 2008).

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