Thursday, 16 January 2014

Teaching philosophy statement

Someone has just asked for it, so I thought I'd put it up on here. I completed it in September 2011 before I'd had a full-on teaching semester here, however I still agree with it. I think I'd now probably just have a bit "bullshit detection" of the Postman and Weingartner sort. And in December last year I gave it to my first year class to comment on whether I achieved what I set out to and the general, positive view was that I did. So, here you are:

I want students to have those eureka moments of enlightenment. I want students to sit-up and be alert in lectures they’re enjoying; or at least not yawn too much. I want students to gain practical skills they can use as professionals in the workplace. I want student to gain skills of critical analysis to be aware of alternatives. I want students to gain deep understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of the subject.

These are high aims and I will be pleased if I meet them sometimes. The student body on urban studies courses is diverse and becoming increasingly so, presenting new challenges for teaching and learning. Students are beginning courses from very different disciplinary contexts, with differing ontological and epistemological assumptions, all of them valid in some way in urban studies subjects. Students also come from different learning contexts with very different expectations and learning outcomes. My role as a teacher is to provide a nurturing learning environmental where this knowledge and these skills can be brought out, challenged and developed into the deeper analytical skills required for the subject.

To do this in my teaching practice I will:
In lecturing – use an active lecturing style, with classes broken up with questions to the class and break-out sessions to apply learning immediately through practical application and reflection.
In tutorials – challenge and stretch students with theoretical writing and practical case studies that will develop deeper understanding and critical reflection.
In assessments – to use a range of assessment techniques appropriate to desired learning outcomes. Reports and presentation will develop practical skills, such as group working, report-writing, communication skills and practical problem assessment. Extended writing will develop theoretical knowledge and critical analysis and writing skills. Summative examination will be used to test relational learning outcomes, or used creatively – such as open book examinations – to develop deeper understanding of topic areas.
In technology-assisted and distance learning – to keep materials up-to-date and interesting and be brave in utilising new technologies and media when they are available, such as blogging, micro-blogging and social media.
In mentoring and supervision – to be attentive to individual learners’ skills and weaknesses and support them in develop skills such as academic reading and writing, literature searching and reviewing and research design and development.
In relating to students – treat them as adults and support them accordingly, providing prompt responses to queries whenever possible; provide positive, constructive and timely feedback on assessment, within the two week time limit of my discipline; and support them through their wider programme of learning.

To achieve this I will seek and use feedback from students, focusing as much on negative as any positive feedback. I will also work closely with colleagues to feed back to the collegial support I have already been offered in developing teaching materials and my practices. This might include peer observation, seeking moderation of assessment marking, and quality control on teaching materials. Through reflection in my Royal Town Planning Institute log book and PDR process, I will challenge my emerging approach to teaching and learning and adapt it to ensure I am meeting learning outcomes and providing a positive and challenging student experience. I see developing my teaching and learning style as a career goal. Students, society and technologies are going to change enormously over the next five years, let alone the next 40. Keeping abreast of changes and aware of student needs will keep learning materials and approaches fresh and accessible and ensure they will provide the learning outcomes I aspire to.

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