When Nondirective Teaching is What you Practice, Sometimes Nondirective Learning is What you Get!

I have been facilitating my courses in a nondirective way this semester. This meant that I opened up all course objectives, attendance policies, grading procedures, assessments, topics and activities to my students. This has resulted in three radically different classes, each unique from any other course that I have taught.

I am typically delighted when my students surprise me. For example, one class decided to perform skits demonstrating parenting concepts for their quiz. It was the most fun I have had in the classroom. Another class spent a week analyzing one-another's dreams. In each there were high levels of participation.

But yesterday I had an experience for the first time. My students got so heated in their discussion that they were arguing--yelling, shouting, and talking over each other. I was uncomfortable. I felt like they should be quieter and more reserved. 

Then I realized that I was describing my own Midwestern conservative white family temperament. When my southern black students get excited, they get loud. I hear it at restaurants and even some office buildings. My students did this in class, which was culturally appropriate, and I got uncomfortable. I think they could feel it, too, because a few students apologized. 

When we meet again, I am going to open with this and see what sort of feedback I get, and what to do in the future if anybody else felt uncomfortable about it.

One thing I really appreciate is how this class period provided a learning experience I would never have gotten otherwise. It is preparing an opportunity for me to better understand my students socially, and for them to understand me, too. It is an intercultural learning opportunity that didn't have to be orchestrated or engineered. But it would have been easy to ignore or block had I slammed my hand on the desk and played dr. dictator. Thankfully, I did not.


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