Bridging individual differences and the generation gap: Who is an effective professor?

Students and professors have always had an interesting relationship.

De La Salle University (DLSU) has always had professors of different ages, usually ranging between 20 and 65 years old. Lasallians almost inevitably encounter teachers of vastly different ages, sometimes within the same term. Students have to adjust with the different teaching styles and varying requirements of their professors. On top of the stress that comes with meeting all academic requirements for the term, dealing with the mentioned differences could also have an effect on the performance of the students.

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Correlation of age and experience with teaching quality

When asked about the importance of age when it comes to the quality of a professor’s teaching skills, Vice Chancellor for Academics Dr. Myrna Austria says that although age and experience are nominally considered, they don’t really matter.

She states that teaching skill is not about age and it’s not even about experience, explaining that there are instances wherein some professors who are younger or have less experience may turn out to be excellent teachers, while some professors who are older or may have more experience still turn out to be subpar in their craft.

Austria also clarifies that the quality of teaching skills is not a matter of age or experience, since all full-time teachers –whether old or young – go through the same training program to keep them up to date on the current pedagogy DLSU wishes to adopt. This program is known as the Academic Leadership Development Program (ALDP), a five-term training agenda that briefs professors on how to conduct classes at DLSU.

Atty. Andre de Jesus, an assistant professor from the College of Business, also believes that age isn’t really a significant factor that affects teaching skills, but for him, experience is. “Experience is indispensable to the whole pedagogical experience,” de Jesus points out.

He explains that this pertains not only to classroom experience, but more importantly to a teacher’s actual immersion in the subject he or she is teaching. Regarding age, however, he argues that “Because of conventional conceptions of age as a dyadic – and mainly temporal – precondition for wisdom, there is a misconception that an older professor is necessarily better.”

School of Economics (SOE) Dean Dr. Lawrence Dacuycuy agrees with de Jesus that teaching experience matters. He specifies that a professor’s research experience should also be considered. “For the SOE, age does not matter but experience, particularly, research experience does… to a certain extent, age may play a role because of the capacity to absorb innovative and generate pedagogical ideas is high on the part of those who belong to younger cohorts,” Dacuycuy mentions.

On the other hand, age can also be seen as a factor that affects performance. Br. Dennis Magbanua FSC, DLSU’s President and Chancellor (Officer-in-Charge), shares that age is important because of experience, but age sometimes hinders a faculty member to adapt to change.

He also thinks that professors must be balanced – they must be scholars and researchers, but also teachers capable of effectively connecting to the students. He also urges professors to always be open to change and continue developing themselves throughout the years.

Marizen Taguibao, a lecturer from the College of Education, states that age and experience are equally important. “Professors become better educators as they age and gain more experience. They become more conscious of their teaching style and students’ learning, and they acquire better skills at handling specific learning agenda,” she observes.


Generation gaps and differences in teaching methods

The current method of teaching that all DLSU teachers are trained to adopt is known as the Lasallian Pedagogical Framework. Austria explains how this is different from the older, traditional pedagogy. The traditional teaching style is teacher-centered. Students must assume that the professor knows everything, and simply listen to all the lectures.

The Lasallian Pedagogical Framework, on the other hand, is learner-centered. Professors must assume that the students already know something, and their role in the class is to facilitate this knowledge so as to correct what is wrong or add value to what is right. This involves more hands-on activities such as group works, projects and class participation.

Austria clarifies that although this is the training that DLSU is currently adopting, a class need not be completely learner-centered. A teacher may decide whether certain parts of the module should be taught in the traditional method or in the learner-centered method.

She adds that professors may sometimes teach their assigned sections in different styles, even if the topic is the same, to adapt to the different ways the classes react to the lesson. “That’s the role of the teacher…how should they teach so that their students could understand? It’s not the other way around,” Austria thinks.

Given that the traditional framework is different from the current one, it is possible that the styles of older and younger professors in teaching tend to vary in some way. “The differences in teaching styles and effectiveness are discernible,” de Jesus observes. He expounds that older professors have the benefit of experience and oftentimes have a more nurturing approach to teaching since many of them are parents or even grandparents.


With reports from Dana Uson


Josemaria Rustia

By Josemaria Rustia

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