My teaching philosophy is founded through the experiences I have had both as a student, a teaching assistant, and an instructor. As a student, I respected instructors that respected their students. It was extremely evident to me as a student which instructors were well prepared for class, organized, and on-time. This translated into a positive learning environment as the students respected the instructor and the material was presented in a clear, well-organized manner. Often, these were the same instructors that took the initiative to engage the class in active communication during lectures. This translated into the students absorbing the material at a higher rate and performing better on midterms/examinations. As I began the transition from an undergraduate student to a graduate student, I began appreciating the instructors that took the time to make the connection between theory and practice. Now as an instructor myself, I place a high value in developing skills that the students will use for the rest of their lives, not just the technical skills necessary to get a good grade in the course. The three key principles that I guide my teaching practice are:
Leading by example. My teaching philosophy places a high value on being a positive role model for my students, both inside and outside of the classroom. I understand that students come from a variety of backgrounds, and inherent to being a university instructor is the influence you have on the student’s mindset and personal development. As an instructor, I aim to instill a strong work ethic, time management skills, organizational skills, and leadership skills in my students through leading by example. I understand that it is unfair of me to ask these skills of my students if I am unwilling to place a high emphasis on these skills myself. I believe that these life skills are highly indicative of success in the workplace and that it is my job as an instructor to attempt to develop these skills in my students just as I attempt to develop their technical skills.
Creating an engaging learning environment. The classroom to me is a place of discussion. It is a place where it is permissible to ask questions and generate conversation. I believe that an active learning environment is much more effective than a passive learning environment. As an instructor, I am constantly engaging the class to the best of my ability. I constantly generate new methods of promoting discussion and engaging students. In the faculty of engineering and applied science, it is far too easy as an instructor to flip through a slide show of mathematic equations leaving students disengaged. My philosophy is to constantly promote discussion of mathematics. I do not mind putting students on the spot and asking them what the next step in a math problem is, or to ask them why we are solving this formula in the first place. I strongly emphasize that it is completely fine for the students to make mistakes in the classroom because that is when learning takes place. With class sizes of 200+ students, they are surely not the only one with the incorrect answer. Engaging the students both provides me feedback with how the students are comprehending the material, and it promotes a positive learning environment for the students.
Linking theory and practice. I strongly believe that it is my role as an instructor to make the link between theory and practice as strong as possible. As an instructor, I have the experience to know the value of the theory, and I have the ability to highlight the important concepts of the theory to the students so that they can use it in practice. Students can learn the pure theory out of a textbook. I believe that if I cannot add any more value to a student’s education than what they can learn from a textbook, I am not doing my job. The true value I bring to the table is the ability to speak from my experience both in research and industry, and to educate the students on the concepts they will need after graduation. This philosophy sets the students up for success in the workplace as well as the classroom.