Reflections on principles and practices
Over the years I have come to view my role in education not as a teacher but as a ‘coach’. The way I see it, a coach is continuously student-focused to get the best out of each individual, engages classes in active learning, responsive with constructive feedback, and is fundamentally judged by the effectiveness of the team. To accomplish this I emphasize training over teaching- a student-centric approach whereby they build/refine natural strengths, increase knowledge-independence, and gain confidence through guided instruction and practice. My goal is to train critical thinkers in the skills, techniques, and methods to masterfully express themselves across multiple genres and confidently represent themselves in international academic communities.
In keeping with a student-centered ‘coaching’ approach my courses
are run as flipped-classrooms based on CLIL principals. In this way
core concepts and assignments are introduced via our virtual class-
room so students come prepared for class activities where concepts
are interacted with, skills are practiced, and constructive feedback
given in real time. Major assessments are set at the beginning of the course and we gradually build towards those through a progression of activities tailored to build specific competencies. In this way when major assessments are held students have been holistically prepared and appropriately challenged to be formally evaluated.
I believe experience is the best teacher and a major component of my courses is peer-to-peer teaching whereby students are given real in-class instructional responsibilities. Individual students and teams will frequently present content and lead class activities with increasing levels of autonomy. These activities have specific learning objectives evaluated on various criteria by myself and their peers. Detailed assignment requirements are given and students are encouraged to use outside media, technology platforms, and individual creativity to produce informative and interesting shared-learning activities. Beyond achieving our primary learning objective students strengthen secondary skills including how to source and cross reference information, structure content, anticipate audience needs, peer evaluation, and build confidence presenting in front of others.
Despite a varied CV I fundamentally believe the only subject I have ever taught is critical thinking. Whether it is writing composition, academic speaking, or EAP reading my classes are an open forum exploring the basis of personal/societal dogmas and the tangled roots of our biases. We learn techniques of persuasion, identify it in practice, and build awareness of manipulation. Through examining political rhetoric, advertising, pop culture, classic texts, and current events we confront key arguments that both contradict and support our worldviews so as to reaffirm or reexamine our own philosophies. To this end whether the given assignment is an essay or a presentation the learning objective is always to continually challenge intellects and develop critical thinking skills.
Technology: Incorporating everyday tech devices and seemingly limitless internet resources into my courses comes naturally as someone who grew up in the technological landscape where our students will build their careers. In order to effectively teach in the information age my courses engage in ongoing conversations about source veracity and how to find/identity credible content. Multi-media resources are incorporated into lessons and I emphasize continual practice using visual presentations to effectively communicate ideas through building information-rich spaces. Regarding administration, my courses have a companion virtual classroom where assignments/materials are posted, students track grades from smartphones, and collaborative work spaces provided where groups develop assignments.
My pedagogical principles are rooted in what I believe are fundamental skills needed in the 21st century: critical thinking, mastery of expression, knowledge independence coupled with technology proficiency, and the ability to successfully work independently or in collaborative teams. In my experience progress never occurs within a comfort zone, it responds to challenge, and my coaching approach provides students mentorship and guidance through progressive challenges where measurable growth is achieved. I have adopted this instructional style because in my classes it pragmatically meets students’ current/future needs and produces greater results across a broad range of primary and secondary skills.