When a professor asks, “Do you have any questions?” there is only silence in the classroom. Classes where questions do not exist are common in universities. Can a class in which questions do not exist be considered a desirable place for education? The Argus tries to analyze the reality and causes of this phenomenon, “class without questions,” and also seeks the limitations.
Classes where questions do not exist
Students who care about what others think
Students learn a lot of new knowledge during class. Therefore, having intellectual curiosity and questions are part of the process of acquiring knowledge. However, students often cannot ask questions because they care about what other people think, even if they have questions.
Shin Ye-eun, Dept. of Chinese Interpretation and Translation ‘17, said, “I’m concerned that the other students will already know the contents of questions I am wondering about, so I feel reluctant to throw questions. In addition, the time the class ends can be delayed by asking questions, so students who want class to be ended quickly seem to dislike that. Therefore, I don’t ask questions in class.”
According to a survey by The Argus, it is noticeable that the majority of students have a hard time asking questions because they are self-conscious.
The classroom in other countries is far from this. Stephen Chung, who spent some of his high school years in Korea and went to University of California, Berkeley recounting his experience in America, said, “I have often seen students ask questions to the professor actively during class as well as after class. It was amazing.”
Professor Ha Jeoung-min who leads a lecture at College of Japanese also added, “The atmosphere in the foreign class was quite different from that of the Korean class. The foreign students don’t hesitate to be wrong and go on questioning. Also debate and communication activities are basically common in class.”
It is recognizable how much more self-conscious Korean students are.
Students facing the limits of the “Lecture Method”
In Korea, many classes are conducted by using the “Lecture Method.” This is the teacher-centered form of teaching, conducted by force-feeding the learning materials to students. Some professors run classes that make students participate with a passive attitude.
A HUFSan who took economic lessons in the second semester of 2018 said, “The professor read the notes on the PPT for two hours. That wasn’t the only time I felt bored. Thus, I didn’t ask questions in class.”
Also, Heo Ye-eun, Dept. of Czech and Slovak Studies ‘14, said, “I think there aren’t many classes where the professor induces the students to participate in the class by asking questions.”
As such, students find it hard to ask questions due to the professor’s one-sided teaching method.
Students who are passive in class
In class, some students appear to be passive in class, or do not concentrate on class and even do something else.
Kwon Ye-lin, Dept. of Chinese Interpretation and Translation ‘17, said, “I can’t concentrate on classes that don’t interest me. That’s why I don’t have any questions. Sometimes I sit back and do something else on my phone.”
Lee Mi-rae, Dept. of German Interpretation and Translation ‘17, said, “When I’m interested in the content of a class, I often ask questions, but if I take a class in which I do not have interest, I can’t concentrate. Sometimes I just want the class to be over.”
As such, students who are not interested in class or who are passive are indifferent to asking questions about class.
Reasons why students do not ask question in class.
East Asian culture of “Centered on Others”
The reason why Koreans have difficulty getting away from other people’s views is because they are included in Asian culture. It is said that Asians and Westerners have significant differences in culture and way of thinking. Broadcasted in 2008, the EBS documentary film “East and West” introduced the differences between East and West thinking through various studies and research. It is said that Asians see objects through the lens of others, but Westerners see objects as they are.
For example, the question: “Don’t you like kiwis?” When asked, Asians generally say, “Yes, I don’t like them.” The reason why the answer starts with “Yes” is because the self is not centered, so “Yes” is the correct expression in the other party’s position. On the other hand, for Westerners the answer is “No, I do not like them.” The answer is from their position.
Also, Confucianism has been dominant in the East since ancient times. This valued courtesy and modesty, which are manners based on others. Therefore, it was considered desirable for a person not to break the law and behave well. Westerners spoke their opinions proudly without regard to other people’s judgments, as the standard of judgment lies in themselves. On the other hand, Asians see themselves not as independent individuals but as a member of the group or society. They believe that they should be justified in their role in society. Therefore, they seek justification by looking through others’ eyes. As a result, the students naturally have to be conscious of other people’s perspectives.
The limitations of the “Lecture Method”
The point is not that the “Lecture Method” is bad. However, due to the limitations of the “Lecture Method,” students do not ask questions in class. One reason is that it can form a formal relationship between professors and students. Students accept what the professor says because they have no background in the class. They do not think it is necessary to make the effort to ask questions because they consider what the professor thinks to be the answer. Because of this atmosphere, a vertical relationship rather than a horizontal relationship is formed between the professor and the student. This results in a reluctance to ask questions.
Choi Eun-kyo, Dept. of Chinese Interpretation and Translation ‘18, said, “Since professors and students lack the time to get to know each other, it seems that the professor has become recognized as a teacher who only conveys knowledge to students. It’s hard to treat the professor personally. It’s hard to ask a question to a professor without hesitation.”
Next, although there is a way to increase participation of students in the “Lecture Method,” not all professors use it. According to a study done in the Korean Education Research Vol. 22, it was found that teachers have increased students’ participation and aroused intellectual curiosity by asking questions that are connected to learning subjects or the specific lives of students. A class where only the professor’s voice is heard turns students into onlookers.
Problems of students’ attitude and course registration system
Students are also responsible for creating classes together. However, there are students who do not participate in the orientation to introduce the professor and lecture plan or in class because they are not interested in the class. Also, some students have no academic zeal and only need to get good grades by just accepting and memorizing the course materials. It is hard to expect them to have a participatory attitude in class.
The attitude of students not being faithful to their chosen classes can be seen as an individual problem. However, there are many cases where students fail to sign up for classes they want because there are only so many people who can sign up for the lecture. Therefore, it is unrealistic to expect an active attitude from students in classes in which they do not have interest.
Park Eun-young, Dept. of Chinese Interpretation and Translation ‘17 said, “I like watching movies, so I tried to register for the class called “Learning English through Movies.” The number of people who could sign up for the lecture was 30, which was small in number. Besides, the lecture was popular for students. So, I failed to register for that class. I was forced to take to another class that I was not interested in, as fulfilling my credits is essential.”
For the above reasons, students tend to be passive in class. It is hard to expect them to participate actively like asking questions in class.
Circumstances where this atmosphere inevitably continues
The “Lecturer Act” that adapts the “Lecture Method” to the class
The Lecturer Act will be enforced in August this year. However, contrary to the purpose of the law, there is a prospect that the lecture-delivery classes can be further promoted. The Act was designed to improve the treatment of part-time lecturers. Consequently, it can ultimately contribute to delivering quality education to students. However, some universities are moving to restructure by firing part-time lecturers and reducing lessons ahead of the enforcement of the “Lecturer Act.” They are afraid that on a fixed budget, the burdens of labor costs will be increased. If that happens, not only will the number of lectures taken by full-time professors increase, but it will lead to more large-scale classes, since they can merge classes, and the prescribed number of students will increase. As large-scale classes make communication more difficult between professors and students, more classes are adapted to the “Lecture Method.”
According to The Korea Economic Daily, which was published on Feb. 10, Donga University reduced the number of part-time lecturers from 540 to 136, and Daegu University notified the union in early January that it would cut about 300 out of 420 part-time lecturers.
As such, the expediency shown on the university over the “Lecturer Act” instructors, professors, and ultimately students. In order to guarantee the people’s right to education as guaranteed by the Constitution, the government will have to come up with ways to deal with the above phenomena quickly.
Still not improving the course registration system
Because the number of students to be admitted per class is small compared to the number of people who want to take classes, failure to sign up for classes is common. This could be seen as a problem with the course registration system, which fails to reflect the demand of students. However, without such a survey that investigates the demands of lecture, the school unilaterally sets the capacity per class.
The same is true of this semester. Compared to the first semester of 2018, the Global Campus has cut down on the number of students for each liberal art class by 10 to 40 students. Of the liberal arts courses, the number of all lectures in the national and social section were 70 in the first semester of 2018. But now, the capacity is only 30, which has been whoppingly reduced by 40 people. In addition, the number of students to register per class is generally cut back for all the liberal arts. Therefore, the number of students who can take classes has been reduced, making it even harder for students to register for courses. These things do not happen only at HUFS.
Yoon Hyun-jeong, Dept. of Education ‘17 of Sungkyunkwan University, said, “It seems inconvenient to have a limited capacity when registering for classes. I failed to register for liberal psychology class which I wanted to take because of too few seats being available. Because I have to get enough credits for my semester, I have to take a professor’s class that has poor ratings instead of delaying my preferred class to the next semester.”
Also, due to lack of technological improvement in the course registration system, students cannot take the classes they want.
Kim Gi-tae, Dept. of Railroad Management and Logistics ‘17 of the Korea National University of Transportation, said, “Our school enrollment system does not have a security system, so we can use macro. Macro is a computer system that automatically clicks about five times a second when the order of clicking on a specific area of a screen is determined. Thus, if you apply for a class by setting the class registration button to the scope, you can register for the class quickly. Registering has become a competition between people who use macros.”
Despite the problems of the above aforementioned system has, universities have not yet shown any improvement on that. As a result, students cannot take a class in which they are interested in. Universities should try to improve the system so that students can take as many classes as they can.
Looking back on the progress of mankind, nothing has been done without questions. Since someone cast the question “Can’t we fly like a bird?” the airplane was created. The question of “why” serves as a stimulus for us to think on our own endlessly.
As the times change, society demands creativity and innovation. That is why the passive attitude and environment we have been sticking to so far seem inconsistent with adapting to these changes. Society, professors and students respectively are responsible for the classroom where there are no questions, so they need to reflect on themselves to improve this situation.
By Oh Ju-yeong
Staff Reporter of Global & National Section