To me, teaching—like learning—is an active process. Taking inspiration from pedagogy scholars including hooks, Freire and Sprague, I believe knowledge is constructed through discussion, interaction, and collaboration. My role as an instructor is to facilitate the learning process.
I endeavor to challenge my students (and myself), to foster critical thinking, and to engage in meaningful discussion. Most of all, I hope to create excitement about learning.
To do this, I think it is important to:
- Build relationships founded upon mutual respect and open communication
- Develop coursework thoughtfully
- Ask meaningful questions
- Allow time for meaningful answers
- Provide structure while staying flexible
- Encourage creativity, critical thinking, and dialogue
- Create a safe space for students to express themselves
At the beginning of every semester I revisit course evaluations and student feedback, looking for places to make constructive change. For example, based on student comments, I have refined exam and assignment structures to provide options that accommodate different learning styles including individual and collaborative work. On faculty/course questionnaires, students indicate that my classes are difficult, fun, active, relatable to everyday life, and filled with opportunities for students to speak and interact with each other (and course concepts) in novel ways. I am consistently told that my grading standards are “hard” and that I am fair in how course policies are applied. I make sure that students have an opportunity to provide feedback about the course throughout the term, not just at the end of the semester. Consequently, I am able to make changes when necessary in order to benefit student learning.
To facilitate meaningful learning, I design courses in ways that ask students not only to engage with concepts and ideas, but to apply them across various settings. This application occurs in individual class periods via small group activities and discussions, through homework reflection assignments, and within projects and exams. By applying course concepts to experiences in personal relationships, work settings, and communities, students report that they find my classes relevant and engaging. Further, in asking students to apply and synthesize ideas, they become active participants in negotiating knowledge in the classroom.
As a teacher, my biggest rewards are watching students grow throughout the course of a semester, push boundaries, ask questions, apply class concepts, and ultimately think differently than when the class began. I appreciate hearing how students take their knowledge from the classroom and apply it to relationships and work settings in positive ways. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to help students learn and shape their lives.