I have a deep passion for learning journeys that promote the application of content knowledge in new and creative ways. Not only do I hope that students seek connections between course material and their own lives, but that they see the connections between course material and the world around them. I have continuously done this both out of the classroom through pedagogical approaches such as service-learning and community-based research and activism, and in the classroom by taking a learner-centered approach that provides foundational frameworks and readings, but seldom dictates for students the subjects or topics for lectures, discussions, papers, or presentations without their input. I also firmly believe that making space for continual reflection is key to creating an environment where students are able to make connections between theory and practice, whether learning is taking place in or out of the classroom.
The literature on both educational and student development emphasizes the need for appropriate levels of both challenge and support for optimal learning and growth. Adding to this in my own teaching, I also strive to create a learning journey within my courses that serves as an opportunity to not only balance challenge and support to optimize learning, but also in a way that encourages autonomy. This commitment requires curriculum that is rigorous and straightforward while flexible enough to be personalized, promotes active learning yet acknowledges students’ various modality preferences, and puts the student in the driver’s seat of her/his/their own learning and accomplishment.
Relating to the need for challenge, support, and encouraging autonomy is allowing for failure while still promoting both success and innovation among learners. I believe wholeheartedly that students do best when held to high standards but are also given opportunities to fail in low-stakes ways that allow them to try new things or experiment with ideas. To do this I have employed a number of strategies from the use of clicker technology to cooperative, team-based learning. Having opportunities to try new things and ideas with ample feedback allows for expanded expectations in student work – what I receive after experimentation is always much higher quality and more robust than what I receive without it.
Finally, in all of the above objectives, I value the opportunity to get to know my students as complex, nuanced individuals. I recognize the diversity of backgrounds, learning styles, perspectives, and aims that my students bring to the table with respect and a hope to support them in ways that furthers them as individuals within their own unique learning journeys. In addition, I use a variety of exercises to make my classroom an inclusive and welcoming space for all who enter it, from group agreements to directly addressing outwardly troubling behavior or language and recognizable micro-aggressions. I seek to create an open and honest learning environment with my students that holds at its center a commitment to removing potential obstacles to learning and growth.