Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Teaching in Postsecondary Institutions: An Interview with Dr. Wilbert McKeachie

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Teaching in Postsecondary Institutions: An Interview with Dr. Wilbert McKeachie

Article excerpt

One of the items on student rating forms that relates highly to teacher overall effectiveness is "the course was challenging."

Wilbert J. McKeachie is Professor Emeritus of Psychology and former Director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan where he has spent his entire professional career since obtaining his doctorate in 1949. In more than 30 books and monographs, 120 chapters, 200 journal and professional articles, and 500 scientific and professional presentations and workshops, he has left a legacy of immense proportions to the fields of psychology and education. Perhaps he is best known for Teaching Tips, Strategies, Research and Theory for College and University Teachers (2002, 11th ed., Houehton Mifflin).

Dr. McKeachie is Past President of the American Psychological Association; the American Association of Higher Education; the American Psychological Foundation; the Division of Educational, Instructional, and School Psychology of the International Association of Applied Psychology; and the Center for Social Gerontology. He is also Past Chairman of the Committee on Teaching, Research, and Publication of the American Association of University Professors and of Division J (Psychology) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has been a member of the National Institute of Mental Health Council, the Veterans' Association Special Medical Advisory Group, and various other government advisory committees on mental health, behavioral and biological research, and graduate training.

Among other honors, he has received eight honorary degrees and the American Psychological Foundation Gold Medal for Lifetime Contributions to Psychology. Most recently, the College Reading and Learning Association, during their 2004 annual conference, honored him with a Lifetime Honorary Membership for his contributions to the practice and research of college teaching, the training of college teachers, and the study of human learning at the college level.

Russ Hodges (R.H.): You began teaching psychology in 1946 at the University of Michigan. Since then, your career has spanned many milestones of recent American higher education history. For example, in the 1940s and 50s the GI Bill gave millions of former veterans access to college. These veterans represented a new type of college student. What was most memorable to you in the field of education during that time period in our history?

Wilbert McKeachie (W.M.): Veterans were more mature students; they were highly motivated. A lot of them wouldn't have had an opportunity without the GI bill. My best friend in high school was a farm boy. He went back to the farm after high school and was drafted into the war. After the war, he went to Kalamazoo College on the GI Bill, then went to seminary, became a Baptist preacher, and had a fine career. The bill made a big difference in people's lives. In fact, when our girls were small, I told Ginny [my wife], "We don't need to save for college; the GI bill has been so successful that we'll have free public education through grade 16 by the time they're in college." Unfortunately, Republicans don't like to pay taxes.

Christie Hand (C.H.): In the 1950s and 60s, community colleges spread across the country, making it possible for state universities to set higher admission standards. Did the University of Michigan follow this trend? What changes did you see as a result of these higher admission standards?

W. M.: Well, it didn't affect us, but it did impact other institutions.. Ohio State and Michigan State (our two rivals in football!), for example, both had essentially open admission. Any high school graduate could go to the university. They spent the first year weeding out people. They had the notion that only certain people were competent to go to college. I can remember arguing about this at the American Council of Education and other groups which I was in at the time. …

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