Reflecting on our approaches to teaching and learning should inspire us to evolve our core principles and practices. Such reflection immensely benefits if shared with a community (indeed this is the ethos of open). I believe that ideally the audience of these statements is the writer and the writer’s community rather than a hiring committee. So, I have decided to share my statement publicly below. The statement below outlines the values by which I teach and learn. They may not be perfect and they will certainly evolve, but they are a constant reminder of my core principles and sources of inspiration.
Statement of Teaching and Learning Philosophy
In the second chapter of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paolo Freire critiques the ‘banking’ approach to education in which learners are considered passive, empty accounts that should be filled by experts. I agree with Freire’s critique. In my experience, being an educator requires both responsible application of authority and the recognition that learning processes are adaptive relations between learners, teachers, and the subject matter. My teaching emphasizes praxis – specifically through authentic, experiential learning including service learning and community-based research. I am a passionate and experienced educator. I have used the below principles to design and deliver dozens of courses on topics in human geography, complex environmental challenges, and geospatial analysis.
Learners should always feel challenged by the material and subject matter, but not intimidated by the learning environment. I encourage learners to build upon their existing skills and experiences while expanding their horizons within specific bodies of knowledge and skill sets that clearly link to personal growth and professional opportunities. I introduce challenging materials and assignments, that require independent thinking and reflection. I encourage mutual respect.
Engage in flexible learning strategies. I create dynamic learning environments encouraging learner participation and critical thinking through diverse activities including debates, research projects, experiential learning, learner presentations, and developing educational resources. We engage in group learning activities that involve problem and inquiry based learning, allowing learners to apply their background knowledge, develop problem solving skills, and master new knowledge through application. While I have made several blended learning courses using online technologies, it is important to me that these technologies serve to meet core learning objectives and to enhance rather than replace the real world relationships between learners.
Emphasize authentic learning and skills transferable to life and to other academic subjects. Successful students learn to gather and synthesize data, critically evaluate sources, and create new information. My students must also learn and hone the rhetorical skills necessary to cogently present their findings and arguments to colleagues and the broader world. Ideally, course assignments allow learners to follow through this process to present something that helps them stimulate change or meet a need in their communities.
Functioning educational institutions are one of the central pillars of an open and democratic society. In my opinion, a core role of education is to encourage students to develop thoughtful personal opinions and to help them “learn how to learn” in order to become well-balanced humans and citizens in our contemporary world. I emphasize these outcomes in my courses. I promote geographic literacy, geographic thought, and geospatial technologies that allow learners to both think critically about and take applied action on complex issues. I emphasize an open society, encourage learners to use and contribute to open educational resources and open source technology.
I am proud to be part of a process that inspires and facilitates other people’s search for knowledge in life. I hope to continue to dedicate my life to creating environments wherein the seeds of learning can enrich people’s vision of and ability to change their world.