Facilitating Interaction to Promote Learning
The presentation utilizes a case study of graduate political economy, health care finance, and government budgeting courses to examine the impact of using class participation, instead of exams and papers, as the sole criterion for determining graduate course grades. When graduate course grades are a function of class participation, the students’ focus dramatically shifts from ‘what do I need to know for the test’ and ‘what does the professor want’ to a desire to understand and apply the material. Student comprehension of the material is augmented by in-class discussion groups which examine case studies, questions relating to the assigned material, and spreadsheets presenting a variety of scenarios. A final component, which develops skills for the information age, requires students to access online and hardcopy sources that are disseminated by professional organizations, state agencies, and other sources students will use in their jobs. When this combination of strategies is implemented, the breadth of insights generated by the group discussions is expanded, students unilaterally decide to apply the assigned materials to their place of employment, a greater amount of time is needed to address the readings, and the professor gains insights into the reasons students do not comprehend the material. The evidence also suggests that gender affects the extent to which the outcomes are achieved. When a majority of the class is male, there is more of an emphasis on ‘tell me what I need to know’ and significantly less interest in understanding and applying the assigned materials.
Keywords: Pedagogy, Professional Training, Graduate Curriculum
Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs and Administration, Western Michigan University