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Attitudes In Au.D.

Training
David M. Lipscomb, Ph. D., President, Correct Service, Inc., Stanwood, WA 98292

At last count, there were some 14 academic programs offering the earned Au.D. This recent development has taken hold as evidenced by the numbers of audiologists who are joining the programs. "Distance education" is the essential educational structure for most of the existing larger Au.D. programs (100 students or more). It has been my experience, however, that the word "distance" is perhaps misleading. Despite no personal, face-to-face interaction, strong bonds typically develop among students and between instructors and students. This brief essay will offer some points for consideration concerning the bonding process and how to foster it, despite a lack of personal contact. The points offered are a series of personal credos, based on my experience as an instructor for three Au.D. programs. Let me say clearly, it has been a privilege and an honor to help teach these extraordinary students. On occasion, I have been disturbed and sometimes angered by stories related to me by my Au.D. students. The complaints centered on feelings that some instructors were not responsive to their inquiries. Others have felt "put down" when they attempted to make a point or answer a question using the internet based venue referred to as instructional "chat rooms." Interestingly, none of the student complaints relate to grading or course rigors. It is my observation that the students have a sincere desire to learn and will undertake assignments with vigor. All of the negatives I have heard relate to what we might term: "cyber interpersonal relations." I believe it is probable that the basis for these feelings is indeed the lack of personal contact, identified above. Instructors, as well as students, are not yet particularly familiar with online chatting and communications, and the appropriate protocols related to them. There have been numerous articles in the popular media concerning online etiquette. It is probable that the occasional "putdowns" and other perceived slights stem from instructor and student unfamiliarity with the process. Years from now, such will probably not be the case. At this juncture, it seems warranted to summarize some ways in which instructors and students can communicate effectively without residual ill will. I believe students and instructors will find these credos of interest as well. The strictures can serve as gauges for evaluation of a course and the instructor. Further, the credos speak to the opportunities and responsibilities of the student as well as the instructor. Finally, some of the current or recently graduated students will soon find themselves in the position of being instructors. Reviewing teaching attitudes and commitment modes will bolster course performance. The foundation for high level instruction, and in particular doctoral level instruction, is knowledge. Without knowledge, the educational performance will dwindle into the ether. Directly behind knowledge (in importance) are teaching skills and attitude. Simply, these three attributes must be maximally combined for effective teaching and learning to exist, in the classroom, and at the keyboard. I personally resent the old saw: "Those who can - do. Those who cant - teach." That simply does not fit the individuals I know who are currently teaching at the doctoral level in our field. They "can", they "do" and they "teach". Credo 1. I will approach the task of instructing a course with humility. There is no place in education for a haughty instructor. That the instructor knows more, on the topic, than the students is a given. Yet, it is humbling to be asked to guide the further professional development of established members of our profession. None of the course instructors will be getting rich by undertaking this work. It is our desire to share knowledge and give back to a profession that has richly served us. Thus, I do not feel "bothered" by teaching. Rather, it is an honor and a true privilege to do so. I endeavor to convey to students the impression that their efforts are not at all an imposition on my time. Credo 2. I will respect the students as peers and professionals.

Having been personally involved in undergraduate and graduate residential training programs for over 25 years, it was necessary for me to remind myself that the students in my Au.D. classes were vastly different from the young and often immature students I encountered as a professor in residential programs. The current Au.D. students are mature adults and they are professionals. They are experienced in the field. They are parents, and, sometimes, grandparents. They have been through what my father referred to as "the college of hard knocks." Therefore, it became apparent to me that the maturity level of the class members demanded an altered attitude on my part. Enrollees in Au.D. programs deserve our respect and attentions because they have already progressed to a high professional level. They are now sacrificing time, energy and family attentions to undertake a rigorous program for their academic development. The goal-oriented posture of Au.D. candidates is commendable. As an aside, it is delightful to report that after 5 course offerings, involving 65 doctoral students, not one has asked, "Do we have to know that?" Or, "Is this going to be on the test?" Credo 3. I will honor Au.D. students as persons in addition to being professionals. Patricia T. OConner, author of Woe Is I wrote, "Remember, theres a person at the other end, not a motherboard." One of the frequent commentaries regarding cyberetiquette, embraces the topic of Ms. OConners comment. There is a subliminal and subjective quality of projected "attitude" that Au.D. program instructors need to recognize. Our e-mails, chat room comments and threaded discussion contributions can come across as terse. Worse, we can project an uncaring, cocky, or angry outlook toward the course and students. Guarding against those tendencies will be fostered if we attempt to picture the person(s) at the other end of the cyberloop. As an adjunct to this credo, I shall strive to become personally acquainted with students as much as possible. Conventions, regional meetings, side trips on travel, etc. all provide opportunities to meet the students. I have discovered that establishing personal acquaintance with students is a charming and enjoyable experience. Credo 4. I will endeavor to provide rapid response to student comments, questions and inquiries. Among the most bitter of the criticisms offered by students involves occasional lapses in response to their communications. In this age of instant communication, and in particular for those of us involved with "distance education", e-mail responses should be managed, and returned on a daily basis. Students simply should not have to wait a week for a response. Students deserve, and should be shown honor, and given feelings of personhood. These feelings are conveyed when the instructor actively participates in course interaction on a daily basis. Credo 5. I will uphold high academic standards and require and expect high quality academic performance. Our students are mature, they are adults and some are near my age. Academic "distance" is fostered if we do not insist that academic performance be of the highest quality. We do students no favor if we become their "buddies" and allow them to "slough off" in their academic endeavors. After all, these are doctoral programs, with all the connotations therein. Doctoral education is, and should be vigorous, and rather challenging. Credo 6. I will strive to be an academic model for the students. Mature students still seek modeling behavior from their instructors. By keeping abreast of current and pertinent literature, contributing to that literature, and demonstrating academic discipline, the students are offered guidance for their own professional lives. Credo 7. I will strive to make Au.D. study enjoyable and memorable for the students. By invoking humor, anecdotal references, and quality personal contact, the rigors of this advanced degree are made more bearable. This attitude makes for good association between student and instructor. Further, it creates an atmosphere in which the students are comfortable relating to each other. This occurs even though most of the students do not know each other personally and they are scattered across the map.