Student success is a goal of educators who are passionate about learning. Student success is defined in many ways, depending on context: the pass-rate in a specific course, the perception of students, the extent to which students meet specific objectives, or the extent to which the course achieves the educational institution’s mission and goals, for example.
Perhaps the more pertinent question is how we can interact with students in a way that helps ensure their success. I believe the answer is through active learning. Active learning fosters student engagement and promotes positive interaction between students and faculty. If we focus on the scope of student-faculty interaction and communication, we quickly see that a culture of trust is essential for student success.
I am a professor in a distance-learning program, so my communication with students is through an online course platform, so my interaction with students is not typically face-to-face. This has prompted me to consider how best to create a culture of trust. Trust begins with establishing values. At AdventHealth University (AHU), our core values include nurture, excellence, spirituality, and stewardship. A faith-based culture of trust in the active learning process is closely aligned with the mission, vision, and goals of Adventist schools such as AHU.
The culture of trust begins with mutual respect between students and educator. Typically, my class is composed of a diverse group of students from a geographic and professional perspective, so I convey my respect for my students by telling them that I understand their commitment to our profession, medical imaging, and that I want them to draw upon their own experiences in their specialty as well as learn from the experiences of their classmates.
I also convey my genuine interest in their learning needs and their subsequent success. One way I do this is to share a Bible verse and devotional message with the students each week. Often students comment on what the verse means to them. Sometimes the messages prompt students to share their particular situations or needs. Trusting that I am interested in my students prompts them to engage in class activities. The resulting culture of trust supports the course goals as well as the school’s mission and goals.
Further, my aim is to motivate students to commit to mastering course material because they trust that the assignments and assessments are beneficial and in line with their own educational and personal goals. The faith-based component of this process lasts far beyond the course itself. Students enrolled in my class hold a minimum of an Associate of Science degree in Medical Imaging or Radiologic Sciences, and sometimes struggles with assignments that require research and scholarly writing at a level appropriate for their Bachelor’s degree program.
Recently, a particular student reached out to me expressing her anxiety over scholarly writing assignments. She told me that she appreciated our class devotions and was encouraged by this particular week’s Bible verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). This was the beginning of a productive interaction between us. I worked closely with her, critiquing her work as she created her assignments. By the end of the course, her writing had improved appreciably. I truly believe that the faith-based connection we developed was a significant factor in her active learning experience. A faith-based connection helped create a culture of trust, and the positive learning experiences that result can prompt students to engage in active learning as they continue with their education.
- AdventHealth University. (2019) Mission, vision, and values. Retrieved from https://www.ahu.edu/about/mission-vision-values
- Bathgate, M., Cavanaugh, A. J., Chen, X., Frederick, J., Graham, M. J., & Hanauer, D. (2018) Trust, growth mindset, and student commitment to active learning in a college science course. Life Sciences Education, 17.