Higher Ed

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February 10, 2019

Higher Ed: “Teacher’s Pet.” “Know-It-All.” “Brown-Noser.” How Labels Impact Learning

By: Jennifer Stayton

“Teacher’s pet.” “Know-it-all.” “Brown-noser.” These are just some of the terms students lob at each other in (and out) of school – especially at students who demonstrate strong mastery of a subject or are enthusiastic in class. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton  explore how and why those labels are used and why they might not pack the punch they used to.

One of the assumptions underlying the use of labels such as those is that it is not cool to be smart or active in class discussion. Ed remembers that was certainly the case when he was in school.

“It was definitely…. ‘you’re teacher’s pet, you’re a brown-noser,'” says Ed. “And therefore you’re now ostracized because you’re not cool.”

Ed says labels – either positive or negative – cannot help but impact students’ learning and experiences in the classroom.

“If someone is looked at as ‘wow – that person is so cool, that person knows everything’ then I think it actually amplifies that and encourages them to go on,” says Ed. “And when you have a student who is called ‘oh, that person is dumb and doesn’t know any of the answers’ or that person is just trying to impress the teacher – and is a ‘teacher’s pet’ – then it actually I think stifles that creativity and that potential intellectual growth, which is really, really sad.”

Those labels may be losing some of their impact, though, as Ed sees a trend toward more appreciation of participation and engagement in the classroom.

“At all grade levels now, knowing the answer; raising your hand; engaging with the teacher or professor or instructor; is actually kind of a cool thing,” says Ed. “I think this is one of the few directions where I think we have actually evolved and made forward progress in how we view…. being engaged and trying and being open to learning.”

Listen to the full episode to hear more about the evolution of labels and attitudes about learning and classroom engagement. There is also a new puzzler that will require your active participation to solve.

This episode was recorded on Jan. 25, 2019.


December 15, 2019

Higher Ed: Holding On Tight Is Easier Than Letting Go. Why We Need To Learn How To Do Both Well.

As Dr. Ed Burger prepares to leave Southwestern University to become President and Chief Executive Officer of St. David’s Foundation in Austin, Texas, he and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss the art of letting go, as they wrap up the KUT podcast “Higher Ed.” Ed says “letting go” in the workplace starts with a pretty straightforward […]


December 8, 2019

Higher Ed: Learning From Failure (And Then Letting It Go)

In the very first episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton talked about the importance of failure to learning. Has any thinking changed about that concept in the past five years? Ed says he has greater clarity now than he had five years ago about one […]


November 24, 2019

Higher Ed: Be Grateful For The Frustration That Can Come With Learning. You’ll Learn From That, Too.

“Thank you” may not always be the words that come to mind when struggling through a difficult lesson or dealing with a mountain of homework in school. But in this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss the role that gratitude can play in learning […]