In a world of smart phones, social media, texting and email, students have distractions constantly waiting for them in their hip pockets. That’s why psychology and youth ministry instructor Kevin Wilder, like most Hesston College instructors, uses his class time to build connections and engage with students.
“I see teaching as a conversation every day,” said Kevin. “I try to share of myself, let students get to know me and allow them to share of themselves. At the end of the course, I want there to be a clear, practical take-away.”
Kevin’s methods earned him the top course award for his fall 2012 Conflict Resolution class, based on results from the IDEA survey – the second time in seven semesters one of his classes has earned the top award among Hesston faculty members.
Kevin’s approach to teaching is relational and hands-on, using stories, activities and group work – any strategy that helps students make sense of the material.
He also promotes out-of-the-classroom connections. Some Developmental Psychology assignments include listening to life stories of Schowalter Villa residents, babysitting or trips to the elementary school to observe children’s development. General Psychology students go on a field trip to the Prairie View treatment facility in Newton, Kan., and analyze IQ (intelligence) versus EQ (emotional intelligence) on TV’s The Big Bang Theory.
Kevin also encourages classroom dialogue with the Curious Student Award – a certificate and stuffed “flying monkey” awarded periodically to a student who is engaged in class, asks insightful questions and talks about class material outside of class. Though the award is simple recognition in class, students now anticipate it.
“I was always very curious, but not a great student,” said Kevin. “I understood the material, but couldn’t quite close the loop – couldn’t write a flawless paper or turn in an outstanding assignment. The students who get the Curious Student Award are not necessarily the best students, but they show interest.”
Kevin’s approach makes a difference for students. Following the spring 2013 semester, he received a thank you note from a student that read: “Thank you for your wonderful instruction this past year. It was wonderful getting to know you. I enjoyed how open and transparent you were with our class. I will use the material you taught us for the rest of my life.”