Philosophy of Teaching & Learning
There are but two bequests we can hope to give our children, one of these is roots, the other, wings.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
That which I desire most in my professional life is to instill in others an insatiable desire to know, understand, and explore the world around them, whether in the lab, classroom, or just in their day-to-day experiences. For my pre-service and in-service teachers, I want to empower them to see themselves not as teachers who share knowledge but as scientist teachers who are the foundation upon which all scientific discovery will be built. Teachers are the original profession through which all other professions are crafted and I hope to inspire, encourage, and empower each and every person with whom I have contact, to see that scientist within themselves.
Educating scientist teachers is much more than a profession, it is a passion that is firmly rooted in my own desire to learn more about the people and things around me, all while helping others find their passion in avenues they otherwise might not have explored. My journey to become a teacher was not a clear path, rather it was a process of discovery and circumstance that led me to my calling. I have always been a curious person by nature, I love to observe the world around me, focusing on the complex interactions and processes that are set into motion. I have always loved the sciences, especially life sciences and physics, so when I made the choice to teach, I could think of no topic I loved more. I was reared in a family of teachers and they have truly inspired me to teach and lead by my actions and words, exposing me from an early age to various cultures, beliefs, and practices. I believe that upbringing made me a more receptive person to the experiences, needs, and beliefs of others. I feel that this hunger for learning and openness to others is an asset to my teaching practice, as I am willing to get to know my students on a deeper level and incorporate diverse experiences into my teaching to meet their learning needs and encourage them to share views and ideas that they might not have otherwise been comfortable sharing. It is also important for teachers to have this same level of responsiveness to their own students, thereby making this modeling an integral part of the preparation process.
Students represent unique combinations of cultural and social interactions, experiences, and expectations that make the classroom a melting pot of ideas and beliefs. We must facilitate the development of deeper understandings about the purpose and goals of science teaching and education in general. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and learning. To meet the needs of every student, we must understand and emphasize the diversity in our classrooms and use that as a tool for integrated, authentic teaching and learning. For this to be meaningful, learning experiences must be personal; students must be encouraged to ask hard questions and independently seek answers, they must collaborate with their peers and learn to work together to solve problems. We must get to know our students and create a learning environment that fosters sharing, interaction, and self-exploration for both students and the instructor. This means there is a need for creating and maintaining communities of learners in every classroom and communities of practice within and across departments, where knowledge and experiences can be shared and built upon to strengthen all participants. After all, learning does not occur in a vacuum--we must put to use all available tools and technologies to meet the needs of 21st century students to prepare them for a faster, more globally-focused society that we cannot event envision today.
Education is not just an institutional process but a life-long journey of changes and growth both for instructors and students. Teachers tend to teach as they were taught, but in today's classrooms, regardless of the level, yesterday's methods are already dated. There is still room for information sharing through traditional means, however, there are a multitude of interactive tools and approached that can be implemented for students to become fully immersed and engaged in the learning process. Instead of telling students what scientists do, we must make them think as scientists think using discovery, inquiry, and critical thinking approaches. With the technology boom as it is today, we must use 21st century tools to encourage real-time data mining and analysis rather than relying only on basic step-procedure activities to demonstrate theories, practices, and knowledge generation. Students should be an active part of the research process, learning about the nature of science by participating in science rather than standing on the sidelines. For science teachers, this means being a scientist teacher, taking the time to become an expert in your field as well as building the pedagogical content knowledge necessary to support teaching others.
The struggle to generate more interest in the sciences is compounded by the gap that exists between scientists and the public. Scientists love what they do because they are passionate and excited about science. It is that excitement that has been missing in teacher-centered instruction, but that is so easily rekindled by getting back to "doing science" and returning to representing the nature of science that fosters curiosity and questions. Learning and scientific literacy are possible in all students and by extension, all people. We must prepare our teachers to be scientists as well as education practitioners, as they are on the front lines when it comes to connecting the public to the scientific community. Only by reaching out and bridging these gaps between the scientific community and the public will we ever achieve the goal of a truly scientifically literate and informed society. Only by investing time and resources in research and outreach will we ever see a renaissance, of sorts, in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math that we have known in the past.