My Philosophy of Teaching and Learning: My teaching principles are based on my own learning experience and the invaluable comments and feedback I receive from my students. Extensive work with faculty in different disciplines also gives me rich insights on how I can help people learn. My teaching philosophy is based on three key principles.
First, in a flexible and personalized learning environment, self-motivation and self-regulation for one’s own learning process is important. A metacognitive approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them (How people learn, 2000). Reflection about one’s own thinking and learning contributes to scaffolding metacognition. Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, Lovett, and Norman (2010) argue that to become self-directed learners, learners “must learn to assess the domains of the task, evaluate their own knowledge and skills, plan their approach, monitor their progress, and adjust their strategies as needed” (p. 191).
Self-assessment is fundamental to developing effective metacognition (Kostons, van Gog, & Paas, 2012). I worked with Dr. Jennifer Shapka as a course instructional designer in 2012 on spearheading major revisions to ETEC 512 and participate in teaching the course itself to this day. In ETEC 512, students are engaged in self-assessment. We allow students to self-assess their own weekly participation by using the Quiz tool within the course platform. We also ask students to copy and paste a post from the previous week that had the largest impact on their thinking and indicate who posted it. I encourage students to leave any particular concerns or questions about the course to the self-assessment form.
Here is an example of student feedback about the self-assessment:
“The idea of self reflection is vital to learning. I especially like the last question because really an assessment without learning is not a lot of point anyways.” (Discussion forum in ETEC 512)
The assessment allows me effective course management as it helps me to navigate the numerous discussion posts in an efficient and meaningful way. It also allows me to pay close attention to individual learning progress, particularly when it comes to the concerns and interests of introverted students. Some students who tend to be more reserved and quieter on the public discussion forum may leave lengthier reflections and insights on the self-assessment. I note any challenges in their learning by responding to their comments/feedback as needed.
The second principle reflects my enthusiasm towards true innovation in educational technology. Innovation is defined as something new. However, true innovation is viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new environments. With the current growth in new media, the way we interact and communicate with one another has changed. Marshall McLuhan (1964) tells us to look beyond the obvious and see the non-obvious changes or effects that are enabled, enhanced, accelerated or extended by the new thing. Through the phrase, “the medium is the massage [message],” McLuhan informs us that the message is not the content but the change in interpersonal dynamics that the innovation brings with it.
Innovative technologies greatly enhance teaching and learning experience across space, time, and scales through various mediums such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Learning Analytics, and Mobile Learning.
Living in a culturally diverse and technologically innovative world, I think a boundary between the old and the new is becoming ambiguous. In today’s world, the two domains are in a “mixed,” or “meshup” paradigm. Mark Hansen (2006) identifies a “mixed reality” paradigm that doesn’t split physical self and the virtual one. I can relate this paradigm to the recent interactive video technologies. The impact of digitalized technology is advanced through the addition of analog sensitivity. The RSA (the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts) Animate video combines advanced software and graphics that reflect human drawing. As another example, Lightboard combines preset LED lighting camera and a teacher’s handwriting to mirror that of writing on a traditional blackboard. This combined and mixed innovation paradigm creates high-quality videos that bring about higher levels of aesthetic experiences. The videos look inviting, appealing, relevant, and not boring. Improved user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) design enhances the look and feel as esthetics are inseparable from functionality. Good design is aesthetic because aesthetic is another channel for conveying purpose.
For the decisions about the choice and use of media for teaching and learning, Tony Bates, who is a well-known scholar in online education, warns that novelty (innovation in teaching) is a two-edged sword and effective teaching mediums do not always have to be sexy if good design is used. I cannot deny the fact that we have to provide our students with reliable and sustainable learning environments. However, the theory of Disruptive Innovation introduced by Clayton Christensen has proved to be a powerful way of thinking about innovation-driven growth. True innovation is not about using innovative technology at the bleeding edge but about the impact that innovation brings for problem solving.
The third principle is the student as producer model which is well aligned with experiential learning (students manage their own learning). I believe that students should become producers rather than just consumers of knowledge (Neary & Winn, 2009). This model requires empowering students to take the lead, solve problems, and work collectively to produce artifacts that they share, discuss, reconfigure, and redeploy (Ehlers & Conole, 2010). Authentic assignments offer students an opportunity to be actively engaged in their own choices and agendas. Engagement is created through participation and collaboration among peers, between students and instructor, and between students and content. In an environment where knowledge is open, the roles of the educator need to change accordingly.
The Stages of Development Model developed by Sprague and Stuart (2000) describes four levels of mastery using measurements of competence and consciousness. The novices in a state of “unconscious incompetence” do not recognize what they need to know. As they gain knowledge and experience, they transition to “conscious incompetence,” being aware of what they do not know. Developing further, the third stage is “conscious competence” where students have considerable ability and knowledge at their craft yet it is not automatic. They must still think and act deliberately. The final fourth stage is “unconscious competence.” At this level, their skills are so automatic that they are no longer aware of what they know or how they are doing it. Many instructors could be at this stage. The automatic and unconscious mastery can make them less effective instructors, as they may not be sensitive towards the needs of students who are at the novice stage. So a question is how to build a strong connection between the instructor and novice students? The Knowledge Transmission model is no longer adequate in the “open” education environment (Hegarty, 2015). I believe that instructors should be facilitators who help students build on their pre-existing knowledge and practice being empowered.
I taught ETEC 510 in Jan 2010. The course requires students to author and share digital artifacts on Wiki. Through the course teaching, I was convinced that student content development is a powerful way of learning. The Wiki community knowledge space includes a massive amount of entries on teaching and learning. One of the positive comments I received about the Wiki design project was:
“I really enjoyed the wiki assignment – it was a powerful learning experience, and really linked theory and practice.” (Course evaluation from ETEC 510)
Whenever I feel my teaching becoming mundane, I recall my first doctoral course and these three critical and effective principles come to mind. Dr. John Willinsky commended me on my writing in the first assignment and made suggestions on how to improve writing a topic sentence. The feedback motivated me to reflect and analyze my writing process in a new and innovative way. In the next assignment, he positively commended my improved production. I became empowered not only by the improved marks but also by the fact that he acknowledged the progress I made. He helped me self-motivate, innovate, and produce. I believe that good teachers should always strive to do this!