Discovering my authentic teaching style

I always try to have a keen eye to learn the engaging behaviors that I observe in the teaching styles of other people. However, I have my own philosophy and do not believe in blindly imitating anyone to build my teaching style. I also try to be flexible about my style and make modifications based on the feedback that I receive from the students or other evaluators. In this regard, my style of teaching is always evolving. However, in some respects, I feel like I have reached a steady-state about how I should do the teaching task. In what follows, I mention some of the points that have almost become static pillars of my belief system about teaching.

First, I think it is important to be friendly to the students so that they feel relaxed in the class. On the other hand, I should be able to control the class so I should not solely put my efforts in the direction of satisfying everybody in the class. The best way is to create a balanced atmosphere of firmness and friendship in the class. The level of firmness is flexible and depends on the students since they come from different backgrounds and while some of them might respect the class even when I behave very friendly, it might not be the case for some others. The level of firmness also depends on the situation; I behave in a firmer manner if I think I am losing control but go back to a more friendly style when the situation goes back under my control.

Second, I think it is important to engage the students and not be the sole speaker in the class as the students might get sleepy. According to this rule, it happens a lot that whenever I want to teach something, I first articulate it as a question and ask for the opinions of several students, and then, I give the answer by explaining why they are right or wrong. Moreover, there might be bonus points if they tell the correct answer but no penalty if they are wrong. Furthermore, as an act of fairness and to engage the whole class, I ask the questions randomly from different students each time.

Third, I try to connect the course materials to real-world situations which I think could be important for the students to spark their interest in the topic. I particularly use this technique when the material is abstract as for this kind of material, it is very easy for the students to get distracted by wandering off in their thoughts. Moreover, by this technique, I implicitly remind the students that what I teach is inherently important and not just useful to get good grades.

Fourth, I try to be easygoing on grading to make the students feel the learning process is for their own good and not something that is forced to them to get good grades. Even I remind the students of this policy of mine several times during the semester so that they actually believe in it and feel relaxed.

Fifth, I believe that if I just use a single method to deliver information, it could become boring. Therefore, to further enhance the attention and learning efficiency of the students, I try to use different methods even in a single class. For example, I use the modern technology (e.g., Powerpoint, video, etc.) in combination with the traditional teaching method (e.g., writing on a whiteboard or blackboard).

As the final remark on this short essay, I want to talk about a recent challenge that requires further improvement of my teaching style. This semester, I have a student that is too enthusiastic, to the level that does not allow others to talk, and even interrupts me when I am giving a lecture. While I enjoyed it at first, I am now starting to feel that it might have a negative effect on other students by taking away the opportunity from them to show themselves. Moreover, it might give other students the impression that I am not actually in charge of the class. Simultaneously, I do not want to behave in a manner that kills the eagerness of the student that gives all the comments. I am still evaluating my behavior and the feedback from the students to reach a balance between when I allow that specific student to comment and when I do not. Moreover, how to make him not comment without disengaging him from the material.

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3 Responses to Discovering my authentic teaching style

  1. maftouni says:

    It seems you have a good understanding of your teaching style. I share many of these teaching goals with you. I also try to be as flexible as possible, to make connections to real-world everyday scenarios, and provide many opportunities for bonus points.
    Articulating the class topic as a question is what I need to incorporate in my teaching. I have a tendency to be very to the point and move forward too fast. I hope to engage students more and give them a chance to think about the topics on their own with the right questions.

  2. Taye says:

    Nice points you listed there. I just think your last situation is a dicey one. I strongly agree with not killing the student enthusiastic nature but I also think there has to be a balance, so you don’t end up losing the class to the students.

  3. sublimegrad says:

    The classroom situation you encountered is a fairly common one, but is stressful to confront. You have a good intuition on wanting to find a balance between keeping the the overzealous student engaged while still engaging the rest of the class. But establishing that balance is no easy task.

    One viewpoint that students can form in the classroom is that by participating at every opportunity, they are helping you teach. But this is only true to a certain extent! You may be able to tap into that student’s drive to help you teach by talking with them one-on-one about your teaching approach. This way, they can understand that the pauses after your questions are not bothersome to you. Allowing others to participate, contribute, and discuss is definitely a needed element for a welcoming and safe classroom environment.

    This eagerness could also come from a source of extreme competitiveness, but that would need a different approach, I feel.

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