I believe that teaching is an interactive, dynamic exchange where students learn and receive new information, but teachers are also edified and expand their skills through experiential learning and communication. I believe it is our responsibility as teachers to activate the will of students and co-create change by providing structure, clear communication, encouragement so that they build confidence, healthy intellectual challenges, and inspiration (Frederickson, 2013).
In teaching my main objective is first to impart knowledge on a specific curriculum. On completion of the course, students must leave with a basic toolkit of skills and basic foundational knowledge. For this reason, structure and attention to detail are important in the development of my syllabus. It is necessary to be flexible and adapt as learning progresses, but it is important to maintain some adherence to the basic tenets and purposes of a course.
One of the methods by which I achieve this pedagogical foundation is by first providing students with concrete details – readings, realia, multimedia approaches to learning via a plethora of materials. We are particularly attuned to the challenges of adaptive learning during the current global pandemic, but my experience and training in psychotherapy have also taught me that in any learning environment we have learners with a multitude of needs. Therefore, it is imperative that as a teacher I provide different formats by which students can access learning and multiple opportunities for them to express their knowledge and practice their skills. A multi-modal method of instruction is a more integrative and less ableist approach to teaching that expands accessibility and learning potential. I include links to readings, video vignettes, podcasts, or audio versions of material and if appropriate practice exercises that may help students to learn. Additionally, I consider it imperative to include exercises that go beyond written work, such as in-class presentations, role-play where relevant, creation of multimedia presentations, and engagement outside of the classroom. I discuss the diversity of assessment approaches with students, both in the syllabus and in-class discussions at the beginning of the semester and prior to assignments. In my experience students have often opted for the more traditional written assignment options, but they have extensively utilized alternative formats for engaging with course materials. Additionally, they become more comfortable utilizing alternative assignment options when they discuss these modalities individually. Consequently, I encourage students to utilize office appointments and offer flexibility to facilitate meetings outside of scheduled office hours.
As a Black woman, a Caribbean-American daughter of immigrants, and a non-native speaker of a second language I am particularly attuned to how cultural differences, different world views, and real-world socio-cultural challenges can affect learning. I believe it is my obligation to help students broaden their worldview, to have the knowledge and analytical skills to understand people who may not come from their backgrounds, and to understand that we live in a dynamic world with many different perspectives. I want my students to embody open-mindedness, confidence, and innovative thought. Therefore, it is important to me to challenge them and provide opportunities for them to trust themselves, to fail without losing confidence, and to receive the help and support to improve, to try again, and to triumph.
Fredrickson, Jon. 2013. Co-creating Change: effective, dynamic therapy techniques. Kansas. Seven Leaves Press