An insight into my classrooms- My teaching philosophy

Teaching is an art. And like all art forms, each artist likes to approach the discipline in his/her unique way. In my opinion, teaching involves amalgamation of interaction, inspiration, creativity, time management and passion within a timeframe; and emerging out of each anecdote as having being able to introduce to an individual, a concept, in such a way, so as to imbibe curiosity for the same.

Engineering, like most of the other disciplines at the university level has students coming from two main backgrounds. The first, are the ones who are hoping to introducing themselves to a new discipline or a field of study. The second are those who already have had the exposure to the discipline at the high school level, and they now need to know more. In both these groups, the initial threshold that needs to be assuaged is to sensitize them as to what they wish to learn and why. In my classrooms, I hope to cater to both these queries.

The undergraduates in engineering must have the aptitude, interest and ability towards engineering if he or she has to succeed. Many a times the engineering student chooses to work in this field due to pressure from the family. Many a parent tries to live their dream through their ward’s academic and professional achievements or try to negotiate their career without considerations to their innate ability and interest. As a teacher of undergraduate students it is also essential to guide and counsel the students. Teaching at a professional level essentially revolves under two main domains namely:

• invigorating the students with enthusiasm towards the discipline;
• helping the students’ towards self actualization.

To me, one of the important things to remember as a teacher is to recognize that each student in unique. All do not learn in the same way. We need to understand and appreciate the individual differences in the classroom. As teachers we should facilitate students to set their individual learning goals, develop strategies to reach those goals, and check their progress toward the achievement of those goals. Of course the education has to function under a given curricular ambit, but too much of rigidity to stick to its confines may stifle the normal natural academic blossoming that is expected in a teaching environment of a good institution.

The classroom climate is as significant as the style of teaching – learning. A classroom environment created by the teacher can either encourage or motivate a child to learn or it can impede the learning process. The classroom environment should foster a student’s ability to learn and make him feel acceptable as a member of the class.

In my opinion, the professional educational interaction cannot and should not be limited to transfer of information. In fact, that becomes counterproductive in an age of info highway where almost everything that is ‘out-there’ can be accessible. Therefore any teacher acting as a vessel of info-transference only contributes to info overload and wastes own time as well as that of the students. My predominant teaching philosophy is constructivism. According to this, the best way to learn is by having students construct their own knowledge instead of having someone else to construct it for them. This philosophy is explained by the Constructivist Learning Theory, which states that learning is an active process of creating meaning from different experiences. The students are not empty cauldron to be filled with knowledge. Learning is best when students try to make sense of something on their own with the teacher as a guide to help them along the way. The teacher in these circumstances acts as a sounding board for the active enquiring mind of the student to negotiate the flow of thoughts in the right direction.

“Criticism? uh-huh!” “Constructive? Erm…”

So, while talking about course feedbacks and the like, in the last class for this semester, I was reminded of what criticism felt like, for the short time, while I was working at a software development firm.

No. It was not anonymous.
Yes. It was blunt.
Yes. It was blatant.
No. It was not constructive. Or most of it wasn’t anyway.
But, yes. We got what s/he(client) wanted to express. Eventually anyway.

In academe, the entire concept of providing ‘anonymous’ classroom feedback materialized as a result of commoditizing the educational system. It probably started with, ‘hey I am paying for it! I should get to be able to critique it!’. Which of course is perfectly logical. I mean, monetary concerns aside, opinion-ating and commenting is the essence of being human. We definitely would not have a million bloggers worldwide, if this wasn’t the case. But what aggravates me is the anonymity of it all and making it compulsorily anonymous? We could be only trying to provide more agency to the students? Or are we?

Yes, an anonymous grievance expression mechanism is justified, in case one does not want to aggravate a faculty member directly and/or is scared of confrontation and/or wants to be able to express feelings which s/he cannot defend or is scared to.

However, in my opinion, course evaluations being anonymous is hardly justified!

In an ideal, much more transparent system  the teacher-student could facilitate discussions amongst themselves to help better the course. How about a face to face interaction with the faculty on the last office hours? A small handwritten note, thanking the faculty for their time and effort along with constructive criticism could also work.

Shouldn’t comments and concerns about courses be expressed cordially and in a collegiate manner? It is a university after all. What happens after you graduate and walk into a world wherein you have no hiding behind lines of code? We speak of education systems trying to cater to developing individuals who are able to deal with real world scenarios more effectively. With such an aspiration how can we ask of our future citizens to shy away from voicing out concerns responsibly and being able to stand up for their beliefs and defend them?

I have always thought that non anonymity with regards to criticism goes a longer way in helping a person rectify a mistake. I for once, would rather that an individual point out my flaws, rather than a ‘non trace-able surveying’ software.

After-all, isn’t  a faculty member primarily supposed to be able to engage, encourage and facilitate growth…