Larry Cunningham (St. John’s), What This Professor Learned by Becoming a Student Again:
For the past year, I have been a student again. Once I finish a final paper (hopefully tomorrow), I will be receiving a Graduate Certificate in Assessment and Institutional Research from Sam Houston State University.
I enrolled in the program at “Sam” (as students call it) because I wanted to receive formal instruction in assessment, institutional research, data management, statistics, and, more generally, higher education. These were areas where I was mainly self-taught, and I thought the online program at Sam Houston would give me beneficial skills and knowledge. The program has certainly not disappointed. The courses were excellent, the professors knowledgeable, and the technology flawless. I paid for the program out-of-pocket, and it was worth every penny. It has made me better at programmatic assessment and institutional research. (I also turned one of my research papers into an article, which just came out this week [Building a Culture of Assessment in Law Schools, 69 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 395 (2018)].)
But the program had another benefit: It has made me a better teacher.
I became a professor in 2003, first teaching a clinic and doctrinal classes at my former school. Later, I joined the faculty of St. John’s, where I have taught Legal Writing, Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Appellate Advocacy, and other courses. Since 2008, I have taught precisely 1,376 students in my courses. My teaching evaluations have nearly always been excellent, and I have received several teaching awards.
But becoming a student again has opened my eyes to things I could do better as a professor. Although the program at Sam was entirely online (mostly asynchronous), the experience has infused new ideas into my brick-and-mortar teaching in a number of ways. Here are the lessons I learned by becoming a student again: