My fundamental goal within the classroom is to foster learning. However, classroom learning is not a one-size-fits-all, because learning can take place in many contexts and the learning process can occur differently for different people. A learner-centered approach incorporates a variety of learning styles, accommodating all types of students. Although the efficacy of teaching techniques can vary by student or classroom medium (i.e., live or online course), one thing that I believe is universal is the student’s desire for an instructor who is knowledgeable and passionate about their subject matter. Enthusiasm can be contagious and an excited professor can yield excited students – students who are eager to learn.
My teaching philosophy has evolved over time, continually being shaped and refined by experiences I have had, first as a student, then as a teaching assistant, and finally as an instructor of both online and live courses. As a high school student I took college-level Psychology and Statistics courses taught by the same instructor, Mrs. Minter. She was a captivating instructor! She had an uncanny knack for making students feel comfortable asking questions, engaging in class discussion, and having courteous and respectful debates about “hot topics.” She was my first instructor to make me excited to learn about mathematics.
There are several things I have learned from this type of teaching style that I try to emulate: (1) I want not only to be knowledgeable, but also approachable. My goal is to make students feel comfortable asking questions and coming to my office hours if needed. (2) I try to exude enthusiasm – it is hard to listen to a professor who is genuinely excited about her lesson and not have some of the excitement rub off on students. (3) I want to create an atmosphere of respect and tolerance of others’ opinions. I believe that active learning is encouraged by allowing all students to feel comfortable participating, regardless of their beliefs.
Some subjects tend to be more interesting to students than others. For example, college students would probably prefer a Family Relations lecture over a Research Methods lecture. However, having had experience teaching some of the courses that are traditionally viewed by students as “dry” material, I have had the opportunity to stretch myself and find ways of teaching that engage students of various learning styles. In the case of Research Methods, I have been able to develop course plans that included group work and object lessons that, while being fun and interactive, serve to drive-home the often complex and challenging material. Seeing students get excited about course material is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as a teacher. I often encourage students to visit me during office hours and enjoy working together to help them develop their own unique skills.