I wrote the first version of the teaching philosophy below in 2013, when I participated in an intensive workshop on university teaching offered by my university. I periodically revisit and revise it.
Technology is changing rapidly, shaping and shaped by culture. I have never lost my own sense of wonder, and that naturally drew me to the realm of knowledge creation. In my journey as a social scientist and student, I realized that the most gratifying expression of that sense was to share it with others, and show how it can inspire action and drive real-world opportunity.
As a teacher, I strive to act as facilitator and guide as students work to actualize their potential and realize their goals. My teaching philosophy is grounded in three foundational beliefs about the creation of high-quality learning experiences.
First, I strongly believe that effective teaching is planned with great empathy for the learner’s point of view. I believe that this starts from actively developing an understanding of where your learners are coming from–not just in prior knowledge, but in preferences and expectations.
I believe that effective teachers integrate this information into their personal styles to harness the power of students’ natural curiosity. In practice, this means that effective teachers:
1) locate or develop questions, cases and examples that are relevant to the students’ experiences and goals;
2) seek opportunities to integrate students’ personal interests with the learning objectives of a course; and
3) provide opportunities to push beyond the course requirements.
I greatly enjoy interactions with my class where I can tie their personal contributions to the course material. I believe that by providing a “safe space to fail,” teachers can encourage students to see and value their development as a real accomplishment.
Second, I believe that teachers play a vital role in socializing students into the vernacular, customs, and practices of professionals in their area of study.
In my personal experience, great teachers integrate professional apprenticeship into their practice in four ways:
1) they model professional skills,
2) they explicitly provide feedback on professional skills,
3) they expose students to the possibilities of their field, and
4) they gradually reduce the amount of guidance they provide as students gain confidence in their professional identities.
In my own practice as a teacher and technologist, this means that I take extra time to translate professional jargon into accessible language, encourage students to use that language, and encourage students to explore the resources and opportunities our community of practitioners provide. I strive to clearly communicate and maintain high standards for assignments, encouraging learners to imitate as closely as possible the style and structure professionals use themselves. In terms of assessment, this concern for apprenticeship also means that I evaluate students’ ability to present themselves professionally under both solo and cooperative working conditions.
Third, I believe that effective teachers take responsibility for creating accessible learning materials. This means that learning materials should be well-structured, accurate, and presented at an appropriate pace. This also means that when evaluating materials for use in my classroom, I consider potential barriers to success that the particular medium, activity style, or content may pose for students with a wide range of abilities and attitudes. I try to provide suitable alternatives and supplementary resources that address those potential gaps. I am a passionate advocate for providing foundational materials ahead of time, and I believe that class time is the best time to clarify misunderstandings by discussing cases or illustrations, posing and answering questions, providing formative feedback, and encouraging critical thought.