The spring 2012 semester has begun. Classrooms which were once empty will soon be filled with students initiating a new routine as a classroom space. In that sense, classroom space is the core of daily life. Although students will spend their time in many places around campus, they will start ranking these places after first participating in the classroom space. This will occur throughout the whole day, week, month, and semester. The same can be said for the professors. They will begin their daily routine in the classroom and will focus on their research or other community service activities by first filling the classroom space.
How can the classroom space be filled? ‘Space’ in a classroom does not only signify the physical space of everyday life. The essence can be expressed as hypokeimenon in philosophy which is the basic property of a place, that is, of a space. This is correlated with the relationship between the professor and student. A considerable number of relationships are typically formed between the two. It is commonly believed that the nature of the classroom space is caused by the authority of the professor over the student. Students’ responses vary depending on how the professor approaches the students and on the conduct of the professor. However, this is not always the case from the perspective of the professor. Even though the same person teaches the same lesson with the same textbook in the same classroom, variables such as students’ attitudes create a different kind of feeling. That is, classroom space is filled with mutual contributions from those imparting knowledge and those receiving that knowledge. This is the “underlying thing,” the hypokeimenon of classroom space. Kurt Lewin, a pioneer in group dynamics and organizational development has stated that when learners are allowed to actively participate in class, the level of academic performance will increase. If so, who will make learners active? Is it the professor, the student, or both the professor and student? From the perspective of mutual contributions, it is both the professor and student.
Thus, education is realized based on the quality of relationships. In actuality, the yardstick for professor evaluations can be seen in the similar points which are given in each evaluation question by the student depending on the quality of relationship with the professor. This is when the professors are perplexed by the results. This was due to the fact that the responses were quite different despite the fact that they prepared the same lessons to different groups of students. To cite an example, varying responses for the ‘preparation for class’ evaluation question by each student group surprised many professors at first. However, after pondering on this for awhile they come to accept these results. They remember that they established close relationships in the classes where they received the highest evaluations. In contrast, classes where they did not use an abundance of expressions with an air of unease were the ones that gave low evaluations. What are the reasons for these kinds of results? This is due to the fact that the nature of the classroom space is based on the quality of relationships created by the professor and students. Therefore, the quality of education is dependent on the quality of relationships, that is, the higher the quality of relationships, the better the quality of education.
Recent trends have shown that course evaluations by the students are becoming the norm. Then, are assessment tools adequately embodying the essence of classroom space? It would be a good idea to reserve the answer to this question for awhile. This is due in part to the tendency of acknowledging the fact that the course evaluations functionally affect improvements in the quality of education in a proper way. If so, is it necessary to disclose the evaluation results in order to improve the teaching ability of professors? This question poses another issue of the assessment tools that are implemented. No matter how objective the evaluation questions are, there cannot be a complete embodiment of the true essence of classroom space. The quality of a relationship is formed within the complex classroom space and by nature is full of ambiguities. This is the everyday reality of classroom space. It is of great concern that there will come a day when students will already have evaluated their courses even before attending them ultimately leading to the oversimplification of the quality of relationships.
Translated by Julia Kim