"Who dares to teach must never cease to learn." -John Cotton Dana
I believe that I learn as much from my students as they learn during the course of our time together. I love the energy created in a classroom when teaching. The classroom creates an opportunity not only for the students to learn, but for me to learn as well. I come away from class full of enthusiasm and new ideas. The conversations allow me to question assumptions I have about topics and thinking and with an appreciation for the student perspective. Being a part of the learning experience inspires me to think differently, with classroom learning taking twists and turns that are often unexpected, but ultimately it is the dialogue that helps push the collective thinking to greater heights. When learning is occurring at its best, all students feel engaged and connected.
I attempt to create a welcoming learning environment for all students and to value the experiences students bring to the classroom, given that individuals have different perspectives and lived experiences to their learning. Realizing there are multiple ways of knowing and preferences for learning, I strive to create a classroom environment that sustains this variety and is tolerant of differences. It is my desire to create critical thinking among students, to allow them tools to take back to their places of work that will make a difference, and to help them grow as reflective practitioners. In the end, learning differs for each student. Keeping this in mind, I use Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning theory to accommodate both the process and perception of learning. His theory includes a focus on concrete experiences along with abstract and observation to active experimentation. I infuse my courses with a full range of these activities.
Students typically exhibit a preference for a particular combination of learning approaches and fall into one of four quadrants. The goal of my teaching is not to necessarily move a student’s approach to a different area, rather to make them aware that others may learn differently. Exposing the assumptions of teaching and learning to students in the classroom aids them in finding what works best for them. This philosophy also serves as a reminder to me that not all students will approach learning as I do and that a full range of teaching strategies are required to accommodate all student learning needs.
Using Pratt’s (1999) Teaching Perspective Inventory, I am classified as a Developmental teacher. As such, I most value working with students to create learning environments that encourage them to be critical thinkers and learners. This perspective means that I meet the students where they are in their learning development and do not make assumptions that there is only one way to approach material or topics. Modeling and acknowledging different viewpoints also serves as a learning device for students.
Classroom Assumptions:I believe in
• A co-creation of classroom expectations
• An accountability to the learning experience for both the students and for me
• Challenging assumptions
• A safe atmosphere for open discussions
• Use of appropriate technology, e.g., listservs, on-line class opportunities, instructor Blackboard course pages Students and Learning:I believe in
• Active and collaborative learning
• Providing opportunities for critical reflection and assessment
• Bridging theory and practice
• Student presentation of projects
• Encouraging submission to national venues for student work-e.g., regional conferences, new member poster session at American Educational Research Association (AERA); Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE); the Council for the Study of Community Colleges (CSCC), etc.
Teaching Practices: I use
• Writing groups
• Case studies and problem-based learning
• Peer editing and commentary
• Multiple points of writing feedback
• Writing book reviews
• Administrative interviews
• Supplemental course reading packets
Evaluation: I use
• Multiple forms of evaluation
• Assessments for synthesis of ideas
• In-class exercises to ensure understanding of application of theories to practice
• Feedback to allow for improvement
When I reflect on why I teach, I always come back to the students. My actions in and out of the classroom are centered on how I can create opportunities for student learning. I get immense pride out of my students' achievements and work to promote these achievements within the university and the professional community. I teach to see the light in a student's eye when they have made a connection with the readings or discussion, to enjoy a vigorous discussion and in the end find that while not everyone will agree, different perspectives are understood, and to learn more myself.