Recently, I had to express my teaching philosophy in 1 to 2 pages. This was for an application to teach a course at another institution. I have a lot of thoughts about teaching, but I have never before had to express those thoughts in a coherent fashion as a “philosophy”. The process ended up being quite enlightening. Well, here is what I wrote:
What is my teaching philosophy? In the five years since I started teaching at the post-secondary level, I suspect that my teaching philosophy has evolved substantially. A couple of months ago I started on a personal reflective journey by starting a blog (reflectiveprof.com) to share my thoughts and experiences in teaching college students. I wanted to create a written chronicle of the various disparate thoughts and ideas I usually have throughout a semester. Forcing myself to put my ideas in writing on my blog for everyone to see has made me much more proactive and motivated to implement new approaches in my teaching. As well, at a more profound level, I wanted to use the blog as a tool for reflecting on who I am as an educator.
I recently completed a Teaching Perspectives Inventory (“TPI”) (teachingperspectives.com). The TPI is a reflective online tool for assessing an educator’s approach to teaching based on D.D. Pratt’s five teaching perspectives: Transmission, Apprenticeship, Developmental, Nurturing and Social Reform.
My TPI results indicate that my dominant perspectives are, equally, Transmission and Developmental. This is consistent with how I see myself as an educator. With regard to Transmission, I consider myself to be an expert in my field with an ability to communicate complex concepts in understandable and relatable ways. From the Developmental perspective, I challenge my students to develop their abilities to problem solve and to critically analyze situations.
Overarching my teaching philosophy is my personal philosophy of “kaizen”. Kaizen refers to a philosophy of continuous improvement. The degree of each improvement may range from incremental to substantial. Every semester, I re-evaluate how I teach a course with a view towards improving how knowledge is explained to my students (i.e. the Transmission perspective) and how I can better engage my students to develop their problem-solving and analytical skills (i.e. the Developmental perspective).
What have I done to improve my “transmission” of knowledge? These are some examples:
– Bringing real and current examples and issues into the classroom. In the aftermath of the US financial collapse, I brought in a guest speaker to help my students make sense of what happened. Most recently, for my online course, I created case problem discussions on Charter of Rights and Freedoms issues arising from the proposed Quebec Charter of Values and defamation tort issues related to the news stories on the Rob Ford crack cocaine video.
– Improving powerpoints by presenting information more concisely, and by using animations to graphically explain concepts. The latter is especially helpful for more visually-oriented learners.
– Using storytelling to illustrate abstract concepts.
– Providing lecture videos in the form of narrated and animated powerpoints. I have received very positive feedback from my students about my videos, especially from students whose first language is not English.
– For my face-to-face classes, I create a course website that is as useful and easy to use as a website for an online course.
– Creating crossword puzzles as interesting review exercises.
The Developmental side of me continually tries to challenge my students to think in ways that they may not have done so before. These are some examples:
– In a face-to-face course, I incorporated weekly online discussions of case problems. While we still have in-class discussions, the online discussions always involve many more students and have a higher quality of interaction since students’ thoughts must be put into written form. Students learn by preparing their posts and also by reading what other students have written. I also provide my students with detailed written feedback.
– I recently experimented with a “flipped classroom” approach which required my students to learn the course material on their own before coming class by watching lecture videos and to apply that material in class by working through case problems. Under this approach, I noticed that my engagement with my students became more interactive and more personalized.
– To facilitate better classroom discussions, I have used various online tools such as Socrative (socrative.com), Today’s Meet (todaysmeet.com) and Twitter.
My overall teaching goal is to reach and develop as many students as possible by continually improving how I teach. In so doing, I recognize the different learning styles and needs of my students.