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What Keeps You Up at Night?

Gilpatrick Hornsby, Ph.D,, Assistant Professor, James Madison University

There are three questions that keep me up at night when I think about my students. The first is, “Am I providing them with the skills that are needed in the world of tomorrow?” In this technologically fast paced world, change is almost a given. So, the skills that are needed now, may not be needed in four years. Because of this, there has been a lot of discussion about teaching our students soft skills that will translate across different situations, but does that mean there is not a place for the hard skills in our field. In the early 2000’s Dr. Joe Purdue conducted studies that asked county club managers what the top skills needed to be a successful manager. The top three skills were budgeting, financial statements, and professional behavior. The study was recreated just 10 years later and there had been a shift to the soft skills of leadership and interpersonal skills as the top skills needed for managers to be successful. So how do I prepare my students for the next shift when we are not really sure what it is? I believe it will be around technology, but I don’t think the technology that will be the next big impact to our industry has been developed.

Along those same lines, the next question that keeps me up at night is, “Am I teaching my students to critically think?” When I look at the traditional method of instruction, I see an instructor disseminating information to a student through lecture, seminar, or discussion. Even with the increases in different modes of instruction, we still see a very similar format. For me, this has trained students from a very young age to meet the requirements of the course and the instructor. It does make them challenge the ideas presently held as fact. When I was younger, I always remember college classroom being depicted as places intellectual conversation. It would be a large lecture hall full of students with the professor at the head of the classroom sitting on a desk challenging the thinking of the students. When I look at my students, I don’t always see that challenge of thought. Instead of questioning why something is the way I present to them, I am asked, “Is that going to be on the exam?” Some of the most successful people in our industry and beyond were those who could look at the status quo and then look beyond it to find a different, innovative solution. I wonder how I can instill that desire in my students. How do I unlock their potential for more?

The final question that keeps me up at night really ties into my first two question. That is, “How do I become a better teacher?” As an Assistant Professor, I still believe that there is a lot for me to learn about hospitality education. I never want to think that I have completely mastered any part of the three-legged stool, but the one responsibility that I especially don’t want to become complacent in is teaching. Our world is changing so rapidly and stagnation in teaching can lead to ineffective instruction. This is why I believe the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning is so important. I believe we must study our methods and policies so that we can improve our teaching and in turn prepare our students to successful hospitality and tourism practitioners.

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