In today’s world, with today’s challenges, an education needs to be more than just an extended information transfer. If students needed nothing but a list of memorized facts then I would advise them to pick up a textbook or visit the library, not register for a college class. As a teacher, I feel that it is my responsibility to help students develop the skills needed to navigate the raw stream of available information and integrate key information into their knowledge network. I believe that doing so requires a teacher that is engaged in both the material and the experience of teaching, as well as a variety of teaching techniques and constant reflection on (and reassessment of) the success of those methods.
Fundamentally, I believe that the key to student learning is student engagement. Whether it is through an innovative and dynamic lecturing style or an active-learning group environment, students need to feel engaged in the material in order to learn. I believe that my passion for this field is evident in my instruction and seeing it helps students take ownership of their own learning. Part of creating this engagement is to ensure that the expectations and goals of the class are clearly outlined from day one, so that students know what to expect of me and what I expect of them. Within this framework, students can see the overall motivations for the class and how any particular assignment fits into those objectives.
My most memorable teachers challenged me to think, not to passively listen or recite facts, and I believe that I owe it to my students to provide them with the same experience. I want to challenge my students to apply the information that we've gathered together in novel and interesting ways, and ensure that they have strong critical-, creative-, and reflective-thinking skill (in addition to traditional knowledge of the field). I think this is best achieved by balancing more traditional short lecture format instruction with more dynamic active-learning activities (small group discussions, integrated case studies, and reflective writing assignments, among others. Additionally, I believe students benefit from regular reading and writing assignments as long as their relationship to the class is clearly outlined. I also subscribe to the philosophy that the best way to learn something is to be challenged to teach it, and so I work to include activities that require students to be teachers themselves. I seek regular feedback from my students to ensure that my methods are effective and ask for suggestions for improvement.
Finally, I believe that the teachers of today have to help their students learn to be adaptable to change. Many of the facts and relationships that we teach will be outdated by the time our students enter the wider world, and we owe it to our students to ensure that they are capable of growing with the times. We need to help them learn how to evaluate if a new tool is effective, rather than just focusing on what tools currently exist. The best thing about teaching for me is that I get the opportunity to help shape the leaders of our future.
It is a responsibility that I do not take lightly.