‘The White Paper Method’

By Victoria Starbuck, Staff Writer

Published in print Mar. 4, 2015

For Dr. Bruce Kirchoff, part of a professor’s duty is to inspire the students that fill the rows of his classroom. As the keynote speaker for this year’s annual Honors Symposium, Dr. Kirchoff closed the daylong event on Friday with a presentation on the relationship between student and professor.

A professor in the Biology department at UNCG, Dr. Kirchoff is often looking for ways to further engage his students. Dr. Kirchoff notes that many students are gifted with the ability to do the work but they do not have the drive and passion to pursue it. Kirchoff believes that a professor should inspire students to find something that they are passionate about and encourage them to become dedicated to that passion through example. 

Kirchoff’s presentation included a study technique that, according to him, can help students improve their knowledge of a subject. He refers to it as “the white paper method.”

The student begins with a blank, white sheet of paper. On this page, the student uses a pencil to jot down everything he or she knows about the subject matter. When the student feels confident that all of his or her knowledge has made it onto the sheet, a colored pencil is needed.

The colored pencil is used to fill in any information the student may have missed, using notes to fill in blank spaces and correct mistakes. Once the formerly blank page is filled with the material the student needs, the sheet can be disposed. For this method to work properly, the student must repeat the process until the color pencil is not needed to mark on the sheet. Kirchoff finds that students who claim the method does not work have failed to utilize it to completion. It is tedious, but the professor is certain that it can bring success to all students. The purpose of the white paper method is to learn through failure while focusing on success. Kirchoff states that the method “allorws safe failure” because it provides students with the opportunity to make mistakes without the pressure of being graded.

Kirchoff warns that it is easy for students to become stuck in a rut with no true purpose behind their everyday tasks. Using strips from the popular comic series, Calvin and Hobbes, Kirchoff outlines the lack of motivation to succeed.

The comic show Calvin’s lack of desire to learn his school lessons at a young age. Kirchoff notes that “changing yourself is really hard,” and Calvin, who in his youthful age ignores his lessons, will find passion for a subject throughout his academic career through a trying venture. But Calvin is not the only one at fault, for his teacher is depicted with her back turned towards her students. It is neither an open nor an inviting position from which to introduce the subject matter to her students. 

Kirchoff likens the relationship between student and teacher to that of the Roman god Janus whose double-faced head depicts his status as the god of gates and doors. Both forward and backward looking, the relationship between student and teacher should combine the forward drive of the student with the perspective gained in the past by the teacher. Together, the two can move towards a more enlivened version of learning.

The annual Honors Symposium offers honors students the ability to present their research in a conference like setting.  In its fifteenth year, the Honors Symposium provides awards to the best presentations given in each of the following categories: Humanities and the Fine Arts, Sciences and Professional Fields, and, for the first, time non-UNCG papers. 



Categories: Features, Victoria Starbuck

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