Teaching should focus on my skills as an educator, but more importantly center on the development of the students. I strive to challenge them to obtain mastery of the course material by developing the important skills of communication and problem solving proficiency.
Since students have different preparation/skills prior to attending college, I try to build a respectful relationship with my students and I strive to supply a safe/comfortable environment in which they can learn.
I am readily available to meet with students that have personal & professional obligations or are shy about speaking out in a crowd. I extensively communicate through e-mail to answer their questions as well as schedule meetings outside my regular office hours.
I try to make the students become more responsible for their own learning. Working in small groups allows them to interact with each other, giving them a chance to practice their interpersonal & communication skills. Students tend to tend to relax more (thus learn more) when in small groups. This collaborative effort gives the students control over their learning process. They are teaching one another, with the instructor being available to assist and intervene (if needed).
Reducing classroom anxiety about answering a question incorrectly is also important. In lecture I’ve implemented the use of clicker questions. I “poll the audience” about any number of topics. Since results are 100% anonymous, students are more willing to guess at an answer without the fear of being embarrassed.
A major part of my role as a teacher is to foster a mastery of the course material. I accomplish this through:
Strengthening problem solving skills by questioning experimental evidence, reducing complex situations to simpler ones and keeping track of data within a calculation. Even if all equations are forgotten, students that have learned to “think like a scientist” will have a valuable skill for the rest of their lives. The key is for the instructor to explain the logical step by step process of a problem, and placing the problem in an everyday context, hopefully clarifying “road bumps” typically involved. Also, using the Socrates method (though sometimes frustrating to a student) gets them to think about the problem. By leading them in the right direction, they answer their own question, thus solving the puzzle for themselves.
Assessing student performance with quizzes & exams can indicate how a student is doing in the class but, by the time I get the results I’ve moved on to the next chapter of material. The use of clickers during (and after) lecture gives me immediate feedback. If the majority answers a question correctly, I move on. If not, I know to review the material. PLUS, when a class is 90 minutes or longer keeping a student engaged is sometimes difficult. Clickers allow the students to actively participate in class, helping to keep their attention focused on the material at hand.
Teaching is a very demanding; however it does have some enjoyable rewards. There is nothing better than seeing recognition in a student’s face when they begin to understand a concept they have been struggling to understand for over an hour, or the satisfaction in their eyes when they are completely able to answer a difficult question after failing to do so the prior three times.
As for why I wish to teach, I would like to instill in my students that through hard work, determination and taking responsibility for themselves and their own work they can accomplish what they set out to do.