Teaching a wide array of courses including first year composition, business writing, introduction to literature and hospitality and tourism management courses has enabled me to engage with a heterogeneous group of students whose needs and motivations vary greatly. It has also encouraged me to think of my classroom as a place where they might confront existing assumptions about reading, writing, and research primarily that these acts are performed in isolation. As I reflect on my beliefs of teaching and learning, I find that my commission as a teacher is threefold: to promote positive learning, to spark learner enthusiasm, and to provide a strong foundation for lifelong learning.
In my teaching, my overarching goal is to develop a student-centered environment. I want students to actively participate, rather than passively learn. To facilitate an open exchange of ideas within the classroom, I generally begin class, especially when we’ve read a difficult piece, by asking for short, written responses or dividing students into groups so that they can generate ideas and work through problems before we convene for a class discussion. The courses emphasize the application of critical thinking skills to foster deep learning and the use of collaborative learning skills to facilitate “real- world” problem solving. I also try to embed activities in the instructional process that are designed to help students develop research and writing skills which are readily transferable across disciplines as they engage in the learning of content material.
I provide practical experiences for my students by compiling coursework with related field placements in schools and non-profit organizations. In addition, I use student course evaluations, peer evaluations, student feedback on my lectures and my own self reflections on class lectures to monitor the quality of the courses I teach. My teaching philosophy reflects my interests in collaborative authorship, instead of the “full frontal teaching” method of large lectures of autocratic seminars, I prefer student-centered teaching that encourages learning by both students and teachers. I favor classroom dynamics that permit dialogue and foster a degree of student input in curricula and grading criteria. I like students to think about the class as a community; This means that in both composition and other disciplines, I have students spend a fair amount of time in smaller groups in which they not only talk and think together, but write together.
My classroom does not simply provide such opportunities, but demands students meet them. I intentionally set forth a demanding pace of assignments, beginning with foundational readings to provide the students with enough background and contextualization that they can come to understand the nature of the skills I will train them in and the results their work will yield. The readings in my composition classes are channeled into the development of short arguments centered on a particular theme; aligning assignments to a single general topic allows students to increase their knowledge and skills in employing information effectively.
When I officially started teaching in 1999, I naively assumed that everyone loved reading, writing, and research as much as I did. I quickly learned, however, that many students dreaded these activities, perhaps because they can be time-consuming and challenging, as well as deemed irrelevant by students who see their potential career paths as unrelated. My goal is to show them that while they may not be reading interdisciplinary texts as engineers, accountants, and nurses, they will be writing for diverse communities, engaging with their peers, analyzing various texts and refining and presenting ideas; thus, my classes are meant to provide the structural underpinnings for their later achievement-no mean responsibility in my eyes.
Finally, in teaching, I make ample use of support services and emergent learning technologies. Having worked at a college with a writing center, I am aware of how helpful it is for students to seek outside attention and supplemental instruction, and I have encouraged my students to avail themselves to these writing and learning centers. In keeping with this emphasis on process, I have used the portfolio grading method in my writing courses, and have been pleased by enthusiastic student reactions.