Mays Business School is a place where outstanding business faculty and outstanding business students meet to create outstanding business education. On Sept. 9, over a Friday afternoon lunch, faculty and students met with the goal of understanding each of their roles in the education process from the perspective of the other through an exercise called Mutual Expectations.

The session was hosted by the Mays Academy of Learning and Teaching (MALT), a newly formed coalition of faculty, staff and students of Mays Business School committed to excellence in the learning process. MALT was born through the collaboration of faculty across departments, specifically fellows of the Wakonse and Wakonse South conferences for college teaching.

The Wakonse Fellowship brings together faculty, teaching and learning professionals from postsecondary institutions who recognize and are devoted to the inspirational aspect of the teaching and learning process. Participants at Wakonse Conferences on College Teaching return to their campuses to share and promote the excitement of teaching — particularly in higher education.

Mutual Expectations, an exercise brought home to Wehner from Wakonse, was the centerpiece of the inaugural MALT event. The session began with students and professors talking over lunch to become acquainted (or to catch up from the summer) before being broken into groups. Small groups of faculty were asked to answer three questions: First, what are students’ expectations of their professors? Second, what are professors’ expectations of their students? And third, which of these expectations are held by both parties? The MALT team provided Venn diagrams to be filled in with the answers to these three questions. After the diagrams were full, the results were shared to establish a group consensus among the faculty.

The panel of students participating in the exercise then presented their results. As they did, the discussion began.

From the professors:

  • “What does is mean for us to be “transparent?'”
  • “What should we do about the use of cell phones or laptops in the classroom?”
  • “Feedback on student evaluations affects us personally and professionally.”

From the students:

  • “Fairness in grading is better than giving an easy “A.'”
  • “Where is the line between participating in class and monopolizing class time?”
  • “We expect teaching to be the top priority when you are in the classroom.”

The beauty of the exercise is that it happens in a safe setting where students and faculty alike can speak freely and honestly. This environment draws out issues, promotes the development of solutions, and gives each side the opportunity to understand the other.

Feedback from the session reflects this better understanding. Students’ eyes were opened to the sheer scope of responsibilities that come with being faculty at a university like Texas A&M. Faculty were able to grasp the pressures, opportunities, and challenges of being a student in the Millennial generation. Both sides were reminded of the reality that their counterparts in the classroom are humans with strengths and flaws, successes and failures, professional and personal lives, needs and expectations.

One of the transcendent themes learned in this session is that optimal teaching practices promote optimal learning, and at the same time, optimal learning practices promote optimal teaching. Governed by a cycle like this, the quality of the education that occurs in our building never stays the same; it is constantly increasing or decreasing. Through sessions like Mutual Expectations, MALT is ensuring that the quality of our learning and teaching remains on the rise.