Teaching Philosophy Statement
As an Information Literacy instructor of “one-shot” and “for credit” classes, my teaching style incorporates four characteristics;
- Creating a class with open dialogue where learners can freely express themselves in a safe space.
- Develop group activities where learners can support each other
- Including scaffolding activities where I help assist learners and provide “one on one” consultations with them.
- Connecting abstract and complex concepts and lessons with “real world” examples that can be directly applied to learners’ personal and professional lives.
I believe that learning occurs best when the instructor promotes an environment where learners are actively engaged in a dialogue. When students interact with each other, they are more committed in critically evaluating the information and process what they have learned through critical self reflection (Merriam, 2004). Students are open to learn when the instructor asks questions and speaks to them as equals (Overholser, 1993). Learners are open to learning when their instructor makes them feel important, special, and motivates them to think critically. Learning happens when the instructor sparks interest in the subject, by asking questions, and having them complete activities and exercises to assess what they have learned. Learning is successful when the instructor provides connections between abstract concepts and “real world” examples so complex ideas can directly be applied to the lives.
When I teach students the differences between popular, trade, and scholarly periodicals, I bring in a sample of newspapers, magazines, trade publication, and a scholarly journal. I place students in groups of 4 and I ask someone to be leader of the group to take notes from questions I post on the Whiteboard. I hand out copies of these publications (in print) to show them in class. I give students 30 minutes to discuss the differences and similarities in the three types of publications I give them. I believe that group learning can be effective because students can learn from each other, motivate each other, and teach each other. Group learning can promote interaction and community building (Shimazoe & Aldrich, 2010).
Providing instructional support and then slowly removing that support is one of my teaching methods that helps promote autonomy and self-directed learning (Pressley, 1996). Since I teach first year college students, many of them are unable to work independently so they require extra support when learning something new and challenging. When I teach APA citation style, I provide instructional worksheets with a breakdown of an APA citation, and show them the “cite” button on most library research databases. I take them to the Citation Machine web site to show them how to automatically generate an APA citation. I warn them that they will need to learn how to cite APA citations “by heart” for their final exam. I slowly remove the supporting materials and I provide practice exercises so they can practice citing their sources without using Citation Machine or the “cite” button.
Making Connections to the “Real World”
In my Information Literacy classes, I use a constructivist approach so learners can grasp the material based on how they conceptualize what they’ve processed. Constructivism is where learners reflect on what they have learned and build their own knowledge based on experience (Savery & Duffy, 1995). When I provide examples that bridge course content to learners’ personal and professional lives. I believe it is important for an instructor to remind students of the practical nature of what they are learning. A good teacher should always have the student’s best interests in mind and they should incorporate the reasons why the topics are important for their lives outside college. Instead of lecturing to learners and pushing content towards them in a “one way” fashion, promoting a dialogue and self-reflection helps learners understand what they are learning and how it can be applied to their lives.
Since Information Literacy represents one of the many General Education courses that students are required to take, it is my obligation to directly tie the lesson to their majors, their future careers, and their personal lives outside College. Creating these connections allows learners to appreciate the lesson even more when they can apply it to their own lives.
Secondary Teaching Techniques
Being a good teacher means that I must be flexible, show empathy, be nurturing, and be a supportive instructor. At the beginning of my semester course, I ask learners to put away their mobiles devices during class time so they can be fully “present” in class. They are permitted to eat, drink, and take coffee breaks, but they cannot use their mobile devices in class. My only policy is a simple request made on the very first class. It sets the stage for the semester. I emphasize that class attendance is important, but I show empathy by acknowledging that learners have full time jobs, families, and personal lives.
As every student enters my class, I smile and welcome them individually. My goal is to be welcoming, authentic, and genuine. I make an effort to learn their names in the first few weeks of class. This is my way to show that I am committed to their learning. I repeatedly ask them to call me by my first name (and not Professor) because I want them to feel less intimidated and I am uncomfortable using the “Professor” title.
I believe that respect is a two-way street and that learners will respect the instructor when they are treated more as equals. I thank them for attending class and I praise them for disengaging with their mobiles devices. I remind them that they are smart and capable and that I am here to support them in their learning. I believe that praise and motivation is an effective teaching technique that can be used in college teaching, especially if learners are not motivated in their personal lives (Mazenod et al., 2018). I remind them that I do not “give them” grades, but they earn them on their own. When a learner thanks me for their good grade, I tell them to thank themselves for their hard work. Each class I remind learners that every question is a smart question and the only way to learn is through questioning the world.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
In my classes, I incorporate a Universal Design for Learning approach (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014). I understand that there is no single way for learners to absorb the material so I use a variety of different media to provides a variety of options for learners to understand the course content. I use Blackboard to post my notes and to create database searching exercises. I write notes on the Whiteboard and I hand out printed notes in addition to using the course textbook. I use multi-coloured paper to denote each week’s new lesson (and because many students love receiving multi-coloured paper). Each class, I write down the week number and the lesson we are learning on the board. I use repetition as a teaching technique to learners. Repetition is used to provide emphasis in my course and for learners to apply what they have learned in their personal and professional lives. I also use realia as a teaching aid and I often use web sites and YouTube videos as examples in my lessons.
Information Literacy assessment may take the forms of pre and post-tests, evaluation forms, database searching exercises, quizzes, midterm exams, and final exams.
One of the methods I use in my class to assess learning is based on “hands on” learning. I believe that the application of concepts is the best method to understand what is being taught. For example, when I teach students the difference between the Boolean search operators AND, OR, and NOT, it is very ineffective when I discuss the differences between the three search operators. It is most effective and appropriate when I ask students to practice doing some database searches on their own to compare the results. Kolb’s experiential learning theory posits that students learn best when they apply what they have learned through experiencing it themselves (Finch et al., 2015).
When I teach web site evaluation, we use an evaluation method known as the CRAP test (or CRAAP test). In my classes, I provide examples of “fake” web sites and I ask students to get into small groups and evaluate the web site using the CRAP criteria. It is more effective when students are actually involved in the critical appraisal of the web site, rather than the instructor “show them” a web site that lacks credibility or authority (Wichowski & Kohl, 2012).
When I teach them visual literacy, I give students magazines and I ask them to look specifically at the advertisements to uncover any visuals that they believe have been doctored and falsified. I ask students to cut out these advertisements and to give a short presentation in class on an image that has been doctored and manipulated and to provide a brief explanation on why they believe this image has been altered and manipulated. Asking students to think more critically about the images that surround them in the media allows them to become critical thinkers and more self reflective (Avgerinou & Ericson, 1997).
My teaching philosophy involves providing a classroom where students are engaged in activities, discussion, interaction, and dialogue. I provide an environment that is encouraging, nurturing, and a safe atmosphere where students feel welcome. I also foster an environment of self-directed learning and student autonomy. I provide a supportive learning environment, but I also encourage independence, respect, collaboration, and collegiality.
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