Teaching Philosophy Statement
As an instructor in the Bachelor of Education Program, my aim is to help students grow an understanding of their practice and support a shift in their identity from teacher candidate to teacher. I also strive to foster students’ enthusiasm for teaching and help them develop further confidence in themselves. My wish is that they be competent, critical, creative individuals who will make a positive contribution to the teaching profession.
In order to meet the above goals and promote student learning, I apply various principles from adult education theory. Before I elaborate on my guiding principles, it is worthwhile noting that my teaching practice is also informed by my previous experiences as an instructor, the educational literature (as an educational developer, I read a great deal on teaching and learning in post-secondary education), and my own experiences as a student at UBC and life-long learner.
My teaching is guided by the following (frameworks, theories and ideas):
Learning in Community
I believe that learning occurs largely through dialogue and collaborative learning and that knowledge is actively constructed and transformed by students (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007). Because social forms of learning are facilitated when there is a sense of trust among peers, I incorporate several community building and relationship building activities throughout the course. For instance, during the first class, we all play human bingo in order to learn about each other and so that students may become more familiar with course themes. We all move about, begin to know each other’s names and find out a bit of personal information about each other as it pertains—mostly—to themes we will be addressing in the course. During this activity, I hear laughter and, following this activity, I feel there is a greater sense of comfort in the classroom. During the course, I include additional activities to build community, such as posting public blogs, doing creative group work, and participating in mindfulness activities.
As a teacher, I seek to tap into students’ motivation–that is, those learning goals that are of highest value to the individuals in my course (Ambrose, Bridges, Lovett, DiPietro, & Norman, 2010). One of the ways I do this is by incorporating opportunities for students to work with authentic problems that require them to draw on their own experiences. For example, when we discuss the role of media, such as the internet, in shaping/altering knowledge production, I ask my students to create a worksheet that can be used by their own pupils to evaluate the credibility of websites. By structuring my teaching so that students are able to make a direct connection between a topic we are addressing and a practical classroom application, I believe this will augment their motivation.
Another concept that is at the heart of my teaching is providing students with choices as they complete the required assignments. Research has shown that giving students a (limited) choice of assignments helps tap into their intrinsic motivation and promotes student engagement and learning (Patall, Cooper, & Robinson, 2008). Thus, for all graded assignments I provide options via which the students will meaningfully address concepts central to the course; this may be choice among the type of assignment they to complete (see, for example: http://blogs.ubc.ca/edst403/archive/), the format they wish to submit the assignment in (e.g., art form, music, text, poem, etc), the due date, and–in the case of assignments posted on the course blog–the privacy settings. By giving students choice, I believe they will be more engaged in their learning and will derive more value (be it attainment, intrinsic and/or instrumental value) from that assignment (Ambrose et al., 2010)
Feedback on students’ contributions
Though the course is pass/fail, I place a strong emphasis on providing quality feedback to students (see note 1). I firmly believe–and many scholars (for example, Carless, Salter, Yang and Lam, 2011; Hattie & Timperley, 2007 and others) have confirmed– that feedback is central to student learning. Thus, I provide feedback in two main ways: (1) verbally in class, as students share out loud and respond to one another and (2) in writing, on assignments. For each assignment a student turns in, I provide:
- comments on what they have done well;
- reflections outlining how they have stretched my understanding and/or provoked my imagination, thinking, interest etc, and
- questions that may challenge their assumptions or their use of a concept or word
- suggestions for improvements or “things to consider”.
Because I am such a strong believer in the role of feedback for learning, I take the time to thoughtfully respond to all student work. See here for a sample of my feedback on a student’s annotated teaching philosophy (shared with the student’s permission).
Positive classroom climate
In my teaching, I aim to establish a climate in which students feel encouraged to take risks, and express themselves. Since ideas raised through the course may be new or uncomfortable, I acknowledge these challenges, invite students to be aware of their receptivity/resistance and honour the fact that individual students will receive the information in different ways. Since typically only a few students are vocal about how they are reacting to their learning, I make use of classroom assessment techniques (e.g. one minute paper, muddiest point) and a modified critical incident questionnaire (Brookfield, 1995) to learn more about how things are “landing”. As relevant, I bring students’ anonymous comments back to the class and then either address them directly or speak to how I have modified the curriculum to better address the questions/concerns.
Critical thinking, reflection, creativity
In addition to the above, I incorporate many opportunities for critical thinking (see note 2), purposeful reflection (see note 3) and creativity in my teaching. For example, in class students write poetic summaries about a reading on embodied knowledge and create a concept map about a specific theme from the class that resonated for them. For their at-home assignment, they may write what they believe should be “core knowledge” within the curriculum (i.e., essential skills and/or content knowledge that every student should possess) or consider how to represent knowledge in a manner that will better promote their own students’ understanding of a specific topic. Such activities prompt students to engage with central concepts in the course, and actively reflect. These assignments are typically a pleasure to read and many students have commented on the extent to which they were surprised by what they learned through these.
My goals as a teacher are many and I systematically reflect on my teaching when I write notes on the lesson plans after class, discuss teaching with colleagues, and engage in professional growth activities, such as workshops and seminars. In the future, I wish to develop my skills at teaching in a blended environment and (possibly) online.
Ambrose, S., Bridges, M., Lovett, M., DiPietro, M., & Norman, M. (2010). How learning works: 7 research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Duncan, J. (n.d.). Critical thinking. Retrieved from https://ctl.utsc.utoronto.ca/twc/sites/default/files/CriticalThinking.pdf.
Carless, D., Salter, Yang, M., & Lam, J. (2011). Developing sustainablenbfeedback practices. Studies in Higher Education, 36(4), 395-407. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03075071003642449
Hattie, J. and Timperley. H. (2007). The Power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.DOI: 10.3102/003465430298487
Merriam, S., Caffarella, R., & Baumgartner, L. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Patall, E., Cooper, H., & Robinson, J. C. (2008). The effects of choice on intrinsic motivation and related outcomes: A meta-analysis of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 134(2), 270–300.
Ryan, M. & Ryan, M. (2013). Theorising a model for teaching and assessing reflective learning in higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 32(2), 244-257. DOI: 10.1080/07294360.2012.661704
Scriven, M. and Paul, R. (2013). Defining critical thinking. Retrieved from http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/410
Photo credit: Footsteps by Kent Goldman (CC BY)