My philosophy of teaching and learning is based on social cognitive theory and social constructivism. I believe students can learn from everyone around them, including other students, faculty, professional experts, friends, and family members. In a constructivist learning experience, students share their understandings, feelings, prior knowledge, and experiences to create new knowledge. In these experiences, the instructor is the facilitator and guides students in their learning. At the same time, I think of instructors as students or life-long learners if they have an open mind and a willingness to improve their content design and delivery. I believe all students are capable of learning and that all people can be considered learners.
In my teaching practice, I apply active learning concepts as I believe active learning has the potential to challenge students to question ideas and to search for answers. I encourage my students to find answer themselves rather than just supplying them with the answers. I believe this helps students to better understand the meaning behind what they are learning, why they are learning it, and how it relates to their version of ‘real life.’ I have presented at numerous conferences on emerging teaching techniques and the application of appropriate technologies for instruction. For example, last year, I co-presented a concurrent presentation at the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) conference about transdisciplinary collaboration in health professions education. As a life-long learner myself, I seek out opportunities to connect with education thought leaders.
Upon reflection as I was writing this philosophy of my teaching, I find myself on a constant quest to discover new teaching methods that are more student-centered and to determine what tools can provide an enhanced learning experience for my students. For example, I teach at three universities in the Chicago area, including Northern Illinois University (NIU). At NIU, I teach a graduate course on multimedia design (ETT 555). I re-designed the course and teach it fairly regularly at NIU. For part of their final project in this course, students have to create a digital story and a digital job aid that incorporates video and audio as an instructional tool to teach someone else how to perform a task. Over the course of the term, they learn about various aspects of multimedia design that can be overlooked such as user experience (UX), copyright, and accessibility.
NIU uses the cloud video service called Kaltura to create and house video content. It seemed logical to me to use it to house my own video content such as pre-recorded lectures for courses. I introduced this technology in the typical way it has been used with students, as a means for them to passively review pre-recorded content. However, for my multimedia design students, I have also introduced Kaltura to them in a unique way as a production tool they could use to complete their own projects. By utilizing emerging technologies when teaching my students, I hope to instill in my students a passion that will continue into their own classrooms, if they are fortunate to end up as teachers or instructional designers. As a result, I find that technology allows students to broaden their horizons beyond a single physical room to an entire world of knowledge.
The projects students are required to complete for my multimedia design class get them more involved in the video creation process than perhaps they had been prior. Most of my students are in the K-12 environment and I receive positive feedback regularly on these types of exercises and projects from them and how they are able to repurpose what they have learned in class as a student to their own classrooms where they are the instructor. This is but one example to showcase how I regularly research these types of tools to better understand how different learning strategies and technology can affect student learning and motivation to learn.
During my time at the University of Illinois College of Medicine (UICOM), I have had responsibilities behind the scenes as well as in front of a room, especially virtual ones during the past year. I led the transition for the entire face-to-face preclinical curriculum to an online format at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe my experience with developing both online and face-to-face courses at the higher education level over the years has provided me important insights I have been able to share with my colleagues who have had to quickly learn how to deliver content in a completely new environment. I have taught faculty development workshops in the college on various topics such as better use of PowerPoint and effective ways to break up content delivery at regular intervals to maintain the attention of their students. I created and maintain a professional development website for our faculty. If you are curious, it can be found here: http://comfaculty.uic.edu.
Over the years at UICOM, I have become an expert practitioner of inquiry-based learning (IBL), specifically team-based learning (TBL) as it is used heavily at our medical school. Team-based activities require a different type of classroom management than a typical didactic session. I collaborate with my subject matter expert colleagues to determine appropriate pacing of content and what technologies (if any) might augment our content delivery in a positive, student-centered way and not get in the way of our teaching. I am currently leading a project to standardize our content delivery types and definitions for the medical school.
I have taught students in face-to-face, blended, HyFlex, and fully online course environments throughout my career. Most recently, I have also developed (or redeveloped) and instructed a number of online courses such as the Multimedia (ETT 555) course I mentioned earlier, Human Resource Development (ETT 561). and Instructional Media and Technology (ETT 510) for Northern Illinois University, and Instructional Design in Human Resource Development (HRD 406) at Northeastern Illinois University.
Finally, I am passionate about teaching and learning. By showing my students my passion for the topics being taught, I have seen that it generates excitement in the classroom and sets up a stronger motivation in them to learn.