The main principle of my teaching philosophy is that student engagement with ideas, with peers, and with the community creates the conditions for students to acquire deep understanding. I conceptualize student engagement as students’ cognitive and emotional investment in their learning that increases their motivation to be active participants in the classroom and the local community. My teaching philosophy grew out of my experiences as a college instructor, my work as an instructional and assessment consultant at The Schreyer Institute of Teaching Excellence, and my studies in Educational Psychology.
I embrace Vygotsky’s idea that language is a cognitive tool that allows learners to communicate and engage in higher order thinking such as problem solving. My primary goal when I teach general education classes in educational psychology is for students to acquire the basic vocabulary of the discipline and be able to apply concepts and principles in their practice. I conduct interactive lectures, in which I implement techniques to engage students from varied backgrounds (e.g., kinesiology and education majors). For example, I show videos recorded in research labs to illustrate concepts such as the different types of attachment between a mother and a toddler. I also provide students the opportunity to review these concepts by filling in a digital crossword with important terms before taking a test, and by generating and sharing with peers examples and cases that illustrate important concepts.
Teaching has to enable students to transfer and extend their knowledge to make informed decisions in their workplace and family setting. My students have commented on how they enjoyed learning about child development and the value that such knowledge has for teaching and parenting. To facilitate transfer I embed case studies and scenarios in the lectures. For example, I have presented students with various peer conflict cases and I asked them to project and explain how children with strong and weak social skills would respond differentially. In another course I have taught, the senior fundamental of instruction course, pre-service teachers learned about different types of assessment tools, designed an alternative assessment and developed an effective assessment tool (e.g., holistic and analytic rubrics, rating scales) to evaluate students’ responses to the assignment.
I believe that collaborative work with peers promotes deep learning. I apply a problem-based approach that engages students with their peers in small groups to solve authentic problems. An example of a group outcome includes developing informational sources for parents, teachers, social workers or other professionals involved with infants, children, and adolescents. For instance, students created a pamphlet to distribute in elementary schools about the role of schools in preventing childhood obesity, along with specific suggestions for promoting a healthier lifestyle. Pre-service teachers in the fundamental of instruction course created a wiki project page on an indirect teaching method that interested them (e.g., case-study, student-centered discussion, problem-based or project-based learning) by working in groups of 3 or pairs. Such collaborative activities encourage students to clarify, elaborate and organize ideas and theoretical principles and communicate them to an audience, such as new parents or future colleagues.
I strive to communicate to my students that they have the potential to improve their critical thinking, and I provide them with opportunities to practice higher order thinking skills by designing authentic assignments. For example, for a paper, students in the Individual Difference Course, assumed the role of a school board member, reviewed an intervention implemented in a school (e.g., bullying, social problem solving), examined its goals, determined the degree to which the intervention involved children, parents, teachers and the community, and evaluated the effectiveness of the intervention. To further support critical thinking skills, I incorporate empirical research from the fields of child development and educational psychology. I often assign readings from teaching and psychology journals and excerpts from APA press releases written at an appropriate difficulty level to ensure comprehension and allow students to engage the readings critically and analytically.
Through my teaching I aim to engage students with ideas, their peers, and the community. This pedagogical approach has helped my students to learn and think deeply about their own life course, the sources of resilience in their lives, and the individuals and communities that helped them become who they are. The ultimate learning goal for my students is to acquire the knowledge that will inspire and commit them in educating and advocating for young people, both as college students, and later as professionals in different fields.