Teaching philosophy

(Not about how to teach the subject of philosophy, but my own thoughts about how and why I teach.)

My style is generally constructivist (Staub and Stern, 2002, in OECD, 2009), engaging students in building their own knowledge and understanding. However, from time to time, I am the expert and need to provide clear examples and provide opportunities for learning through practice and demonstration of particular skills.

I encourage role playing and exploration, asking students to undertake a couple of physical tasks, such as creating a board of post-it notes and exposing it to light over the course of a study period, to study the effects of ultraviolet light on paper, and then later asking them to simulate a disaster recovery scenario by briefly exposing a paper object to water in a shower or bath and then trying to recover the item. The idea of these two exercises is to encourage students to think about the impact of the environment on materials, and to demonstrate the resource intensive requirements of particular programs.

By way of contrast, students are also asked to create a very specifically formatted assessment, designed to introduce them to common professional activities which must meet Australian and international standards. Students are provided with a range of examples to help them understand what is required, and are given the opportunity for a limited number of drafts to be publicly edited by me in the online environment. Videos and lecture notes are provided to help them work through the exercise.

I believe that students need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively both now and for the future. Good English skills, both written and oral, and an understanding of common professional formats and environments will assist students in their careers. As a teacher in a largely online space, I use discussion boards as a way of engaging with students and encouraging them to develop critical reading and analytical skills. I cite Gallagher and Tompkins (2006), urging students to think of the discussions as “a game of non-competitive racquetball or tennis in which the goal is not to win but to exercise both yourself and others by keeping the ball (ideas) in play as long as possible.” My units include an assessment based on a presentation to clients or peers on a specific topic, which may be a video or powerpoint or some other form of engagement, accompanied by an explanatory memo, the use of an edited form for submitting a grant application as the basis for another assessment and a range of essay and other report formats to encourage good writing.

Edward J. Gallagher (2006) Improving the discussion board. Retrieved from http://www.lehigh.edu/~indiscus/

OECD (2009) Creating effective teaching and learning environments: first results from TALIS. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/berlin/43541655.pdf

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