A new way to learn

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Critical thinking skills. Confidence. Leadership. Self-awareness. Courage. This is what we are to trying to build as we educate students at Pima Community College. And all were on full display as I had the pleasure of sitting in on an Anthropology 112 class taught by Gene Trester at East Campus.

The students in Mr. Trester’s class are benefiting from a student-centered, interactive model of learning.  What does this mean? Many people are used to a traditional classroom in which the instructor stands at the front and imparts his or her wisdom in a lecture, perhaps followed by a quiz or assignment.  In Mr. Trester’s class and in other classes across Pima’s campuses, students are given the reins.  The students themselves present the course material, and in doing so, they learn through the research they conduct AND they teach their peers.

Mitch Taylor educates fellow students with a presentation, "A Cardboard Retelling of the Cherokee Myth of Creation."

Mitch Taylor educates fellow students with a presentation, “A Cardboard Retelling of the Cherokee Myth of Creation.”

The students presented on soft skills, religious symbols, an African tribe, and the Cherokee myth of creation. They were impressive — they had a strong understanding of the material, and their classmates were thoroughly engaged. After each person concluded a presentation, their classmates delivered constructive, focused commentary.

This class was reminiscent of my educational experience at The Evergreen State College. I was afraid to stand in front of a classroom and talk to my peers. Through practice and experience, I got over it.

I told the students in Mr. Trester’s class that they are learning leadership skills, possibly without even realizing it. They are learning to work in teams, to present in front of an audience, to speak on controversial topics and to accept feedback. These skills will take them far.

I was scheduled to spend an hour in the class, but we ended up spending 90 minutes together, discussing a wide range of topics. We talked about the College budget, and the value placed on education in Arizona versus in other states and countries.  We talked about the importance of developing cultural and global competency. Their questions were thoughtful and probing. They wanted to know what they could do to help Arizona’s leadership realize that education, and funding for it, should be a much higher priority.  My answer: They should be engaged, informed and strategic, and vote for leaders who share their values.

I want to thank Mr. Trester and his students again for sharing their class time with me.  It was an inspiring, energizing morning.

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