To understand why interaction is so important in college, let’s look again at some of the typical differences between high school and college instructors:
- Many college classes focus more on how one thinks about a subject than on information about the subject. While instructors in some large lecture classes may still present information to students, as you take more classes in your major and other smaller classes, you’ll find that simply giving back facts or information on tests or in assigned papers means much less. You really are expected to develop your own ideas and communicate them well. Doing that successfully usually requires talking with others, testing out your thoughts against those of others, responding to instructors’ questions, and other interactions.
- Instructors are usually very actively involved in their fields. While high school teachers often are most interested in teaching, college instructors are often more interested in their own fields. They may be passionate about their subject and want you to be as well. They can become excited when a student asks a question that shows some deeper understanding of something in the field.
- College instructors give you the responsibility for learning. Many high school teachers monitor their students’ progress and reach out if they see a student not doing well. In college, however, students are considered adults in charge of their own learning. Miss some classes, turn in a paper late, do poorly on an exam—and you will get a low grade, but the instructor likely won’t come looking for you to offer help. But if you ask questions when you don’t understand and actively seek out your instructor during office hours to more fully discuss your ideas for a paper, then the instructor will likely give you the help you need.
- Academic freedom is very important in college. High school teachers generally are given a set curriculum and have little freedom to choose what—or how—to teach. College instructors have academic freedom, however, allowing them to teach controversial topics and express their own ideas—and they may expect you to partake in this freedom as well. They have more respect for students who engage in the subject and demonstrate their thinking skills through participation in the class.
Text adapted from “College Success” by University of Michigan under a CC BY-NC=SA 4.0 license.