Professor Jesse Stommel on Trusting Students and Teaching in Higher Ed

“Why ­aren’t there departments of higher-education pedagogy? Why aren’t there for-credit classes being offered in higher-education teaching and learning?,” said Jesse Stommel, senior lecturer in digital studies at the University of Mary Washington and co-author of “An Urgency of Teachers: The Work of Critical Digital Pedagogy” (Hybrid Pedagogy, 2018), in a recent interview in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In the interview, Stommel discussed various topics including his philosophy of trusting students and his belief that colleges should take teaching more seriously. He also talked about the difference between “best practices” in teaching, and “best philosophies.”

Instructors teach at different institutions with different students, and have various personalities and backgrounds, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching. With this in mind, Stommel developed his pedagogy, “start by trusting students.”

“That’s really where ‘start by trusting students’ came from. That looks different for different teachers in different classrooms, but it is a place to put your foot as you enter a classroom,” Stommel said. “Bringing myself fully to the classroom actually takes more deliberate effort on my part.”

Stommel also discussed how becoming a parent changed his perceptions of learning. Children are not as self-conscious about learning, which is a skill that adult learners could adopt.

“Education is not about valorizing knowing, it’s not valorizing having the learning be done; it should be about valorizing not knowing and being able to sit in the space of not knowing comfortably,” Stommel said.