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Was This Professor Fired for Requiring Students to Think?

A Utah professor used the Socratic method in his college classroom. Now he's out of job.


College students claim they'll pay attention in class if professors cut the lectures and make class more engaging, but former Utah Valley University business professor Steven Maranville found out the hard way that's not always the case. Seniors in Maranville's "capstone" business strategies course complained because he didn't lecture enough. After a year on the job, citing negative student course evaluations, the university denied Maranville tenure. Now Maranville, who left a tenured faculty position at the University of Houston to teach at UVU, has filed suit against the school.

What was going on in Maranville's classroom that generated such a backlash? He says he simply required students to do what most employers wish colleges would do: connect academic concepts to the real world. To facilitate that process, Maranville used the Socratic method, creating classroom dialogue by asking students open-ended questions that necessitated creative thought and participation—even if they hadn't raised their hands. He also required them to work in teams and participate in small-group discussions during class time.

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