The foundation of my teaching philosophy is the development and nurturing of critical thinking skills. I do not believe that rote memorization and regurgitation of facts should be the default learning experience for my students. While it is not possible to completely remove this from many entry-level courses in my field (Health Sciences/Gerontology), I believe that a successful classroom is one where collaborative learning takes place. Traditional lecturing and summative assessment certainly has its place (especially when introducing students to important background information and assigning a final grade), but I prefer to incorporate active learning strategies wherever possible. Students arrive bursting with positive energy and are eager to learn. Engaging them as partners in education rather than lecturing at them focuses their energy and maintains their thirst for knowledge. The most effective learning process is student-centred, reflective, and self-directed. Exposing students to these concepts early will help instill a sense of discovery which transcends any specific course material and allows the student to develop a set of core skills applicable to any future situation.
A crucial component of the learning experience is the classroom environment. The teacher should demonstrate both expertise and passion. Without the latter, I may appear cold and unapproachable. Additionally, if I do not display much enthusiasm about the subject matter, one can hardly expect my students to develop any enthusiasm either. Using multimedia presentations, active learning strategies, incorporating social media, and inviting discourse are key elements that I use to build a positive classroom environment. A flipped classroom approach such as this can encourage the students to go beyond the minimum and thrive instead of surviving. The initial university experience may be frightening or overwhelming for some, and I strive to be inclusive and proactive, encouraging students to use all available resources to help them achieve the best possible grade. As a teacher, I have an appreciation for a variety of learning preferences and giving my students access to their preferred learning method will allow them to flourish academically. I strive to include audio/video examples of real-world applications of the academic material and provide additional readings for interested students. Not everyone is comfortable raising their hand in class, and I let my students know that they are always free to use whatever means they are comfortable with to reach out to me (office appointment, email, social media), whether they are struggling or if they simply wish to learn more. I maintain an open-door policy for my students, as limiting access in this regard would limit their access to learning.
The final component of my teaching philosophy is developing students’ academic research and writing skills. In my experience, this is where many undergraduate students struggle. In order to improve their research and writing, I prefer to ask students to submit several drafts of their papers whenever possible. As both research and writing are collaborative processes, this practice simulates the “real world” of both academia and industry. Many students falsely believe that they must produce brilliance in their first draft and can get stuck staring at a blank page for hours. By teaching virtues of multiple revisions and emphasizing formative feedback over traditional summative feedback, I hope to show students that writing does not only not have to be a chore, but that it can be a wonderfully rewarding experience.