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As some of you may know, I recently accepted a position to teach an undergraduate course at my alma mater. Yesterday, I had my first day in an academic classroom. I immediately noticed a difference with the interactions between the students. They don't act like students in a professional training or conference talk. I wanted to use this opportunity to enumerate some of those differences.

The immediate thing I noticed was the lack of open environment. This is not to say the class was hostile towards me. I am used to entering the room, bantering with audience, loosening everyone a bit, and flowing into the discussion.

A purely academic audience does not banter. At least, they do not banter on day one.

I think I can attribute this to two factors. This first is a greater perception of authority. In a training or conference environment, I am an equal with the audience. This is true even if I am being a subject matter expert. We're all professionals. We're all there to learn from each other, share our stories, and enjoy the journey. In the academic classroom, there was a distinct class difference. I had forgotten about this distinction; I had the professional familiarity with the staff by the time I completed my masters.

This leads to the other distinction. These was an expectation of performance. At conference and professional training, there is generally no (immediate) grading. This may be a preparation for a certification exam, but I'm not the one responsible for delivering the exam. This was not the case in the academic classroom. These students are battling for points, and I am the sole arbiter. These students are less likely to let the material wash over them, applying the material to their past experiences. They were down taking notes.

I don't want to leave the impression that there was no interact in the classroom. I spent a good deal of time doing problems with the class on the whiteboard. I tried to get the class to help me work out the steps. This opened up a few of them.

After every conference or training class, I always get a few people that will email me afterward to continue the conversation. I am very curious to see if anybody comes to my office hours tomorrow.

However, that is a curiosity that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 10:29 PM Speaking , Editorial | Back to top


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