Teacher for Learning

What’s in it for Me?

The Teacher for Learning module of Ontario Extend includes the activity, What’s in it for Me? This activity challenged us to brainstorm a list of WIIFM from a student perspective. Rather than just brainstorm, I went back to conversations I’d had with students regarding the reasons they’re studying.

When I speak with my students, most can articulate a reason why they’re in the program they’ve chosen to pursue.  These responses are varied and cover the range of typical reasons adults may take education such as reskilling for a new job, advancing in their career, keeping busy in retirement, making more money, finishing a degree, etc.

While most students can quickly give a response on what going to school is going to gain them, if you query them what they will get out of a specific course in the program, or a topic in that course, they become much less confident in giving an answer on what they’re getting out of it.  They don’t often have the time to reflect on what learning a particular topic may do for them.

To me, this is another interesting component of WIIFM. In the programs where I teach, learning outcomes are determined in part by the institution and in part by the professional association which accredits those programs. There are certain topics which seem to always draw criticism from the students when they hit them.

For example, in a Health Information Management (HIM) program, students often don’t see the value in the topics of Risk Management and Proposal Development. These topics seem very far from what their concept of working in HIM will be. While I always try to explain why these topics are included, students frequently don’t see that these situations will ever apply to them.

WIIFM kicks in when students go out on a 4-week practicum and then return to give presentations on the experience. This is where I can see the light has gone on for certain students. One of my students who was a critic of these outcomes commented on learning about Request for Proposal once he came back from practicum.

I thought learning RFP was a waste of time. The second week my proctor asked me if I knew anything about proposals. I got to take part in developing a RFP. Now I’m glad I learned that stuff!

Sometimes WIIFM needs real-world context. Students may have preconceptions which make it hard to see what they may get out of a topic. It’s rewarding to see the light go on as they discover that something that they were skeptical about does indeed have something for them.