What is the instructional role of a Professor who works at a Historically Black College or University (HBCUs) where a large percentage of the entering students are placed in remedial courses? HBCUs have an academically diverse group of entering students. Some are academically “at-risk”, others have undisclosed disabilities, some are ELL’s, and others are high academically achieving students. A significant percentage of these students struggle with reading, writing, and math, which comes to no surprise because they left high school struggling in these same academic areas.
Even in the previously described HBCU environment it is expected that the professor’s role consists of being a teacher, researcher, and professor. It would be ideal if the percentages of time in each one of these roles were divided equally, but the previously described student demographics need a heavier emphasis on instruction. A good percentage of students do not come to the steps of the college with critical thinking and problem solving skills, therefore, these skills must also be taught in order for professors to be effective in their ability to construct knowledge. If the overall mission of HBCUs is educational access and equality for all then we have to be prepared to instruct all types of students with high academic expectations supported by effective instructional strategies.
There are professors who are very knowledgeable of their content areas, but have limited teaching or instructional experiences. They often struggle with the teacher-professor concept. Those who struggle with this concept often find themselves frustrated with students who have less than expected academic abilities. The approach to this issue is not to pass the students along from course to course with academic gaps. One must instruct or teach with high expectations. Teaching requires the professor to connect with their students and incorporate a variety of instructional strategies beyond lecturing. Even the smartest students need to connect to the content through a variety of instructional methods.
College level students have addressed concerns about engaging instructional methods and teaching styles, but that is because they have been trained in the college/university setting to accept lecturing as the dominate teaching method. They are not expected to engage in coursework outside of light discussions and note-taking. This is a clear example of the continuation of the “banking-concept’ described by Paulo Friere where students are viewed as a blank slate with no prior knowledge. The professor assumes that their role is to bank course concepts into this blank mind. This instructional practice expands the educational deficits students had when they entered college. When strong instructional systems are not in place the students leave college worse off than how they entered. They have a mountain of student loan debt and no degree, if they are one of many who do not make it past the sophomore year; or they have a mountain of student loan debt, a degree, and insufficient knowledge to prepare them for the workforce.