driven by the narrative

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My Teaching Philosophy

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I am driven by narratives. I believe that everyone has a story. Everyone has an accumulation of life events and experiences that shape who they are today, and no one story is any more or less important than another. This belief shapes both my attitudes in the classroom, and my pedagogical choices. In the following pages (including my teaching philosophy and CV), I expand on that belief and offer concrete examples of how it moves from philosophy to practice in my classroom.

Student centered classroom: My classroom is student centered, which means that life experience drives content. In other words, students learn best the things that they want to know, so I position students’ learning within their own narratives in order to encourage them to take responsibility for their learning and to make learning meaningful. To this end, when I design a course, although I may have general goals that I hope to achieve, and a purpose for running the course, I build flexibility into my course outlines so that as the needs of the students arise, I can accommodate them within the context of the course. Every course that I teach, even if it shares the title of another one I have taught, is unique.

I encourage a collaborative classroom in which students work together to generate knowledge and make meaning. In other words, drawing a social constructionist perspective, I provide an environment in which students can negotiate with each other to make sense of course materials. In doing so, I ask students to make meaningful connections through each other’s narratives and contend with the diversity that such interactions provide. This kind of collaborative environment facilitates dialogic interactions in which real learning can take place.

Spirit of inquiry: Learning does not begin and end in a classroom. I facilitate student learning by helping students to move from an individual and sometimes narrow perspective, to a broader and more critical perspective. That is, I draw on their personal narratives, and then help them to grow to understand collective perspectives and narratives that take them outside the classroom. I do this through dialogic inquiry in which learning is a mutual engagement. I explore questions with my students for which I do not already have a fixed answer. This applies to assignments that I design to help students broaden their perspectives, and not punish them for what they do not know.
I also believe that the spirit of inquiry needs to be fostered in students. Sometimes this means giving students second chances to explore and to learn. In difficult circumstances, my choices are always governed by the question, “In what way will my student learn more?”

Multiple literacies: I believe in facilitating student learning by drawing on multiple literacies that will strengthen literacy skills in school and in the workplace. Just as students have unique stories, they have unique ways of learning. Thus, by drawing on a variety of media, I am more likely to find a means of communication that will resonate with individual backgrounds and learning styles. In order to achieve this I incorporate technology into the classroom and assignments in a way that enhances the learning experience. Similarly, I encourage assignments that both draw from and incorporate a variety of literacies. By doing so, I allow students to draw on their strengths, and become aware of areas where they can develop.

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