Statement of Teaching Philosophy
Teaching is one of the most rewarding, dynamic, and transformative careers I can think of. For me, teaching is not a profession; it is a lifestyle choice that involves embarking on an ever-evolving self-reflective practice and tuning into my own and learners’ motivations, perspectives, and experiences. My role as an educator is not simply to share my knowledge with students, but to guide and inspire them to actively reflect on their skills and interests, and how they may realistically achieve learning outcomes by creating connections among course content and their lives. This view of the teacher as intuitive mentor empowers learners by putting them at the creative center of their own educative process and fosters a sense of camaraderie and curiosity for others’ ideas, backgrounds, and situations. It also ensures that students acquire competencies and meta-skills that are easily transferable across disciplines and can be applied to day-to-day exchanges.
The experience that I have gained since coming to UBC has deeply impacted how I view and approach teaching and learning. I have often had to come to terms with the fact that strict inductive approaches to teaching, which, looking back, I approached almost dogmatically before coming here, do not work all the time for all of the contexts, content, and students I aim to actively engage with here. Instead, I need to rely on what I call “structured intuition”: I know my students, I know my discipline, and I have enough experience at UBC now to anticipate my students’ struggles with and motivations for learning.
In preparing my first (post)pandemic teaching philosophy, I can comfortably say that I still believe in the effectiveness of immersive language teaching and learning (even in the remote setting), but I no longer categorize my approach according to one particular pedagogical framework or method. Instead, I strategically employ aspects of a variety of approaches and practices —the Communicative and Action-Oriented Approaches (Piccardo, 2014), inquiry-based, active, and collaborative learning strategies, and “learn-by-teaching” techniques (Stollhans, 2016)— that recognize learners of all levels as social agents with prior knowledge and experiences (personal, linguistic, cultural, disciplinary) and encourage guided interactions and skill development that leads to intercultural and communicative competence in and about the target language and culture. My instruction also aims to create a safe and effective learning environment built on mutual respect and understanding and places human intuition and student well-being at the center of the teaching and learning experience.
Regardless of the level, content, or language of instruction, my teaching follows a logical sequence and builds in variety in terms of methods, assessments, and learning activities to maximize impact and provide greater accessibility to all students. I open class with a warm-up that links the current lesson to past and upcoming ones and urges learners to reflect on the subjects at hand through diverse perspectives, skills (reading, writing, speaking, listening) and cultural content. I also strike a balance between instructor and student-led activities and design layered or scaffolded lessons that interrelate cultural, linguistic, and communicative goals through true-to-life tasks and contexts. When aligned with learning outcomes and executed with the right dose of technology and un toque personal (a personalized touch), this customizable approach promotes the “five C’s” that have contributed to student success in my classrooms up to this point: communication, context-based learning, connections, community, and comfort, in the sense of creating an open and respectful environment driven by instructor and student engagement with course goals, content, and each other.
Technology is a fundamental aspect of my pedagogy. When common guidelines for responsible use are set and clearly communicated from the start, I have found that it is one of the most effective means of promoting student agency without compromising academic or privacy-related standards. Canvas has transformed how I manage courses, communicate expectations to students, assess their learning process and progress, and create community in and outside of the classroom. Zoom is an essential tool for building instructor and learner presence in the virtual classroom. The Share-screen feature allows for a seamless sharing of visual materials and the chat and annotation tools play a pivotal role in promoting active participation and building confidence without the pressure of precision or interrupting the flow of class (or requiring microphones or cameras). In addition to these platforms, collaborative activities in OneDrive and classroom response systems like Padlet and Kahoot allow for instructor and peer interaction and feedback on the spot in large or small group settings and may be used as well for independent learning activities. Such educational technologies build community and capacity in ways that simulate students’ communicative habits, while nurturing the skills and competencies needed to push through the curriculum. They also allow me to demonstrate in action that student contributions are as central as mine in shaping the learning experience.
This manifold approach to teaching encourages purposeful learning that is in tune to varied viewpoints and accessible to diverse learners. Nevertheless, I believe my pedagogy is unique because of my capacity to offer glimpses of who I am as a human being and life-long learner, and to inspire students to do the same. As an employee of an internationally renowned institution like UBC that privileges equity, diversity, and inclusion and health and wellness as the cornerstones of learner engagement and academic success, I present myself before students as an energetic, approachable, and adaptable guide, whose central aims are to facilitate learning in an enjoyable and conscientious way and to (re)evaluate continuously my methods and practices so that they reflect my curiosities and skills as well as theirs. This personalized teaching style and humane approach to education is true to who I am and motivates learners to find meaning in class content and to use the language on their own time, on their own terms … in the real world.
Picardo, Enrica. “From Communicative to Action Oriented: A Research Pathway.” Curriculum Services Canada. Ontario, CA, August 2014.
Stollhans, S. (2016). “Learn by Teaching: Developing Transferable Skills.” In Corradini,E.; Borthwick, K.; Gallagher-Brett, A. (eds.). Employability for Languages: a Handbook. Dublin: Researchpublishing.net. pp. 161–164.