Taiwanese students appear to be increasingly less responsive to the content of their classes, as well as student-teacher interactions, educators attending a recent series of higher education forums said.
Taiwan Medical University College of Humanities and Social Sciences professor Lin Chung-i (林從一) described the situation as similar to talking to a wall or a row of tombstones.
Lin made the remarks at a forum commissioned by the Ministry of Education at National Chengchi University on Friday, which invited educators to share their experiences about higher-level education.
The attitude of students toward class posed an “immediate, and often very cruel problem” for college professors, who worry about the content of their lectures and the unresponsive nature of students, Lin said.
Lin said he did not believe it was absolutely necessary for students to speak or ask questions during class, but added that students should show more interest toward their courses.
Citing as an example a teacher from Transworld University who taught a course entitled “Practical Writing Format,” Lin said the teacher was often faced with having more than one-third of the class fall asleep within 10 minutes.
Initially believing the lack of course content to be the problem, the teacher increased the class’ workload. However, he soon discovered the increase in content only caused students to nod off quicker, Lin said.
The teacher then slashed the course syllabus until only two major items remained, following a discovery that the majority of his students came from disadvantaged backgrounds, Lin added.
The teacher instead asked students to compose letters to send to their families and also made the Classic of Filial Piety (孝經), a Confucian treatise on how to behave toward seniors, a required reading on the course.
Surprisingly, the teacher then began receiving calls from students’ parents saying that they had not expected to receive such letters from their estranged children, who they had not seen in many years.
Lin told the forum that teachers do not need to tell jokes or hold field trips to motivate students to learn, but added that teachers need to understand the perspective of students when designing a course syllabus.
“If the students feel that the course material is more in sync with their surroundings and their lifestyle, they will naturally feel more connected to the materials and the course,” Lin said.
I-Shou University Office of International Affairs head Michael Wei (危永中) echoed Lin’s comments at the forum, saying he also felt that teaching his students was akin to talking to a wall.
However, since Chinese students have been allowed to study in Taiwan, the situation has begun to change, Wei added.
Despite the initial tension between Taiwanese students and Chinese students on who should sit in the front row of the classroom, Taiwanese students began to increasingly occupy the first row and have even started to debate with the Chinese students, Wei said.