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Success Stories in the Arts & Humanities
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Student Perspectives on Arts & Humanities Engagement



Back in the day, defining the typical college narrative was fairly simple. The high school graduates of yore would often head off to college a few hours away from their hometown, reside in dorms and perhaps enjoy college social life a bit more than the academic experience. They’d cart their textbooks to and from class at 8 am, 10 am and 2 pm Monday, Wednesday, Friday and pull all-nighters before final exams. Today, this narrative would but loosely capture reality.


According to the National Center for Education Statistics and relayed by NPR:

  • 1 in 5 college students is at least 30 years old
  • About half are financially independent from their parents
  • 1 in 4 is caring for a child
  • 47 percent go to school part time at some point
  • A quarter take a year off before starting school
  • 2 out of 5 attend a two-year community college
  • 44 percent have parents who never completed a bachelor's degree


But the landscape of college students is becoming increasingly non-traditional in scope. If you struggle to understand what your students are thinking as they sit across from you in class—or online—you’re not alone. We took the liberty of asking some of today’s college students what their advice and expectations are when it comes to learning—especially in the Arts and Humanities. Read on to learn some of the best ways to engage students in class, straight from the source.


What is your favorite way to learn? Why?


I have a few favorite ways to learn which includes using flash cards, quizzing myself, and teaching others. I have found that by teaching others the material I am trying to learn, I can pinpoint my weaknesses and figure out what I know well and what I need to work on.

  • Natalie Schoenfeld, The Ohio State University


I like to learn practically, in the sense that we do real world applications, instead of theory. I like it because it feels like there is a purpose to what I am learning.

  • Johnnie Martinez, Texas Tech University


I like to learn by doing because I feel like that forces my brain to take part in the activity, rather than just my ears listening to what’s going on.

  • Elizabeth Shannon, University of Dayton



If you could give your teacher advice on how to make your Art or Humanities class more interesting or engaging, what would you tell them?


Give some freedom. With art, I understand there is technique you need to follow but I believe in freedom and artist development for yourself and I think allowing some more freedom would give students more of an ability to find who they are within art.

  • Olivia O’Brien, Washington State University


I would tell them that they should utilize the interactive technology that is available. I have used many different types of interactive tools in class, whether that be online polling, in class quizzing or worksheets. Passively listening to a lecture does not work for me and I think many students can agree. Active learning is the way to go.

  • Natalie Schoenfeld, The Ohio State University


I would tell him to have more interactive classes. Sometimes he would be presenting something and we would be sitting there for an hour or so, bored. Making things interactive allows the whole class to be involved.

  • Elizabeth Shannon, University of Dayton


In Art, give more projects where we can be creative! And, in Humanities, make everything apply to our modern day lives – how a theme in a Greek story can apply to us today, etc.

  • Francisco Rubio Fernandez, UCLA


Do more group work and more attention-prone work towards each student.

  • William Ziegert, Miami University


Think about your favorite teacher of all time. Why was he/she your favorite? What did they do differently from the rest? What could your Art or Humanities teacher learn from their approach?


My favorite teacher of all time was my 7th grade English teacher. She was my favorite teacher because she often brought unconventional learning to the classroom, such as writing play scripts to perform to the younger grades and having a tea corner for reading. My art teacher could learn from this approach by attending to all learning styles of every student and making the classroom enjoyable to be in.

  • Caroline Black, The Ohio State University


They were very real with us. It was my AP literature teacher during my senior year of high school and he didn’t hide anything. He was real with us about life and he was very philosophical. He was very open, honest, sincere. It was great.

  • Olivia O’Brien, Washington State University


My favorite professor of all time was very engaging with how he taught the material. A lot of teachers feel like they like what they do, but the great teachers love teaching as much as they do researching. More of the Art and Humanities teachers can engage more with the students and show more passion.

  • Johnnie Martinez, Texas Tech University


While today’s higher education student body is more diverse than ever in their experiences, expectations and learning needs, the bottom line is surprisingly universal: engaged educators create engaged learners, especially in the Arts and Humanities.


Interested in continuing this conversation? Comment below with your favorite ways to engage.