My teaching philosophy is elaborated based on my perspective on the various roles of a great teacher serving as the role model for their students.
Teacher as a learner. Teaching and learning are interdependent and inseparable activities; the quality and intensity of the one corresponds to the quality and intensity of the other. A great teacher is also a great learner and, likewise, a passionate learner makes up a passionate teacher. One important aspect of teaching is the ability to simplify a complex problem without diluting the essence. When a complex concept is explained in a simple yet meaningful way, students will more easily grasp, recall, and apply the concept. As a result, students are more likely to enjoy the learning process, which will eventually benefit both themselves and the teacher. I believe it is imperative for teachers to continually upgrade their knowledge and their teaching approaches in order to effectively educate and communicate with their students. In my teaching, I strive to be well organized and to engage the students with a clear, systematic approach, and using analogies or associations if or when needed.
Teacher as a motivator. In my classroom, teaching and learning are student-centered process. An effective teaching-learning process facilitates the students to discover facts and develop the insight themselves, while the teacher’s primary role is to inspire, encourage, and challenge the students to proactively learn and advance their knowledge and skills. Inspiration is necessary to motivate students to certainly know why they need to learn a subject and how they will be benefited from it; encouragement is needed to help students stay focused and determined when unexpected problems arise; and challenge is important to keep students “stay hungry, stay foolish” to pursue personal growth and avoid complacency. The goal of this teaching-learning process is not merely to transfer information, but rather to bring transformation in every student’s life, in their “heads” (knowledge), “hearts” (attitude), and “hands” (skills). A great teacher must have a sincere purpose to help the students reach their potentials, knowing that each student is a unique individual that could achieve their dreams and become a person with greater influence in the future.
Teacher as a trainer/coach/manager. Experiential and active learning is key to deep and lasting understanding. Knowledge retention is essential and therefore, through experiential learning, students are given more opportunity to experiment themselves, in order to better “taste, feel, smell, touch, and see” what they are learning. They are encouraged to not be afraid of making mistakes and to learn from them to build something better afterwards. To really absorb what they have learned and develop their senses, students need to be able to learn independently, by exercising their own curiosity and critical thinking, and collaboratively, by working in a project together and learning from the peers which could also improve their communication and problem-solving skills. Students are trained to develop the habit of seeking a good counsel and references from other people’s experiences, which is fundamental to promoting a cross-disciplinary learning. Both individual and group project assignments are given to facilitate this learning process in competitive and collaborative environments. Competition is important for students to help them overcome their perceived limitations, to be the best of what they can be and to make the most of what they can do with the resources they have. Simply put, each student needs to be able to describe “what I have learned today.”
Teacher as a facilitator. A successful learning process requires the learners to be proactive. Therefore, the teachers need to create a climate that promotes the learning activities. For instance, in my experience doing research in laboratory, I had to learn how to operate analytical instruments to support the experimental data. I found that learning theories and instructions from the manuals are not sufficient without direct involvement (hands-on activities). I learned faster only if I myself also operated the instruments. It is a “learning by doing” process where I oftentimes learned harder by solving problems and technical difficulties. In light of this, I believe that students need to do and think themselves to progress their learning, while teachers need to provide the tools (e.g., in the forms of in-class program or group project) that allow students to exercise their curiosity and creativity.
Teacher as a counselor. Integrated and inclusive learning environment is also pivotal for students, who have diverse backgrounds, learning styles, goals, and personalities. I seek to give students objective evaluation and constructive feedback on their performances. Students need to know how well they are making the progress (if they are meeting or surpassing the expectations), hence assessments on exams and assignments are to be reported back to them. I also make sure that students feel comfortable in asking questions and discussing with the teacher and peers by providing multiple avenues to inform their thoughts, such as in-person discussion after class or during office hours, emails, posts to the online learning platform, etc. Good questions that spark better understanding and/or innovative ideas are to be given credits. I acknowledge that teachers can also learn from their students, hence originality and/or novelty of student’s ideas must be appreciated. Feedback and criticism from students are welcomed, which will eventually help refine my teaching practice. Communication skills, both oral and written, are exercised through discussions, presentations, and/or workshops. Technology and electronic media can also be used when appropriate to accelerate the learning process, even though I believe that teaching and learning are a life-long process that requires patience and perseverance.
P.S. Feel free to leave your comments below and share your version of teaching philosophy.
Vancouver, April 30, 2021