This is a video of Celia Popovic speaking about her ongoing research, ‘Understanding Undergraduates’
What do university teachers believe about their students and are they right in their assumptions? Are teachers right when they say students who sit in the front of the lecture theater perform better than those who sit at the back? What about students who demonstrate a work ethic by holding down paid work? Are they better students than those who don’t? Most university teachers have ideas about the typical good or not so good students in their class, but rarely do they share these thoughts with others. By keeping quiet about the preconceptions or stereotypes they harbor teachers put themselves at risk of missing key evidence to help them revise their beliefs, more importantly they may fail to notice students in real need of their support and encouragement. Stereotypes are useful time-saving devices and have served us well as we evolve to our present sophisticated selves. With the plethora of information that surrounds us it would be impossible to question and evaluate every clue about every situation, however stereotypes are also dangerous as they can lull us into believing we understand the situation which may be more complex than it first appears. My book, ‘Understanding Undergraduates’ tells a story of professors in the UK and the US and shows which beliefs turned out to be true and which are mistaken. We need to examine the beliefs we hold as they can blind us to the real needs and life stories of the students on our courses. If we are able to identify the real drivers, obstacles and challenges faced by our students, we have a better chance of tailoring our teaching towards success and away from frustration the teachers and students alike.