Senior Lecturer in International Studies & Global Societies
University of Technology Sydney
Teaching is an important part of my identity as an academic. I have been a teacher for more than 10 years and I have been fortunate enough to have a wide variety of teaching experience in both Spain and Australia and at various tertiary institutions. Much of that experience has been in language teaching and in pathway programs.
My teaching philosophy is based on providing students a sense of belonging in an academic community. Although some students feel comfortable at university, for many others the university can be a challenging space and it is often difficult for students to see beyond the attainment of their degree that will gain them access to the professional world. I consider it my duty to immerse students in an academic community and to make them feel that they belong in that community. I utilise an asset-based approach, where students’ pre-existing knowledge and abilities is valued in my classroom. I consider my role as a facilitator in the classroom and thus situate student contributions in a scholarly context. The result of this approach is that students learn to take a critical look at the world in which they live, and they begin to see themselves as actors in the intellectual arena, a world where thoughts and ideas have both potential and consequences.
My teaching philosophy is underpinned by four principles:
1. Research Inspired Teaching
I am passionate about teaching content and ideas: everything from Spain’s transition to democracy, the history of globalisation, and postcolonial theoretical approaches. I have spent years studying, reading and researching, and I want to share that knowledge with students. It is my responsibility to ensure that 1) such content is put in a context that makes it relevant to students and 2) students know how to apply the concepts they learn to their discussion and assessments. I therefore ensure that my lectures and tutorials form a coherent narrative that is aligned with the overall subject objectives and at multiple moments during class I point out to students how the current content or activity contributes to the overall objective. Where possible I connect the content to current events and use popular culture references.
2. Active & Engaged Learning
In my teaching I always attempt to create a psychological and physical space that provides students freedom to learn at their own pace and where they can form relationships based on respect for one another, and where everybody's ideas are listened to and discussed equally. Humour is one strategy I use to create a relaxed classroom atmosphere. I believe that one of my best qualities as a teacher is my ability to inspire confidence in my students so that they feel comfortable expressing themselves regardless of their level of ability. Although I am organised and take teaching seriously, it is just important to be accessible and flexible. Although I always have a lesson plan it is also necessary to adapt oneself to issues as they arise in the class context. I utilise online learning apps such as Padlet, especially during the early weeks of semester, for students to practice using the concepts they are learning in class. The interactive format encourages peer collaboration and students soon learn to make connections on how to apply a theoretical concept to a reading of a text, the understanding of a historical event, or in framing a current issue.
3. Collaborative & Collegial Teaching
I consider myself fortunate that I have had experience teaching in a number of styles. My favourite is collaborative teaching, or team teaching, where I work with other teachers to to lead, instruct and mentor groups of students. In order for the art of collaboration to work successfully, it requires thoughtful consideration on the part of educators. Time must be set aside for developing lessons and deciding on appropriate learning approaches to use with specific students or groups. Collaborative teaching has allowed me to expand my teaching repertoire, sharing professional concerns, and addressing students’ learning needs. Most importantly, collaboration allows more opportunities for students to understand and connect with content thereby maximizing individual learning potential.
4. Embedding Core Competencies
My teaching philosophy is underlined by a fundamental belief that it is my responsibility to ensure that all my students are provided with the resources they need to succeed. Although I do believe that it is important to teach students content, I have discovered that it is even more crucial to teach students the skills they need to do well. Such skills are taught best through an interactive teaching style that demands student participation and provides scaffolded challenges. My students come from diverse backgrounds and I therefore do not assume what my students know and do not know. I share with students my own personal journal as a university student and how I, too, also struggled to learn the necessary academic skills to complete my degree. I encourage students to complete interactive activities where they learn a range of academic skills that too often teachers assume that students know. I therefore always devote some class time to addressing concerns for assessments, such as developing a thesis, structuring an argument, or referencing appropriately. In classes for first-year students, I spend time discussing methods for reading and annotating a text and walk through the rubrics. In short, I do everything I can to create a dependable structure within which my students can become independent and lifelong learners.