A Universal Design for Learning
It is my belief that because everyone is unique and comes with a one-of-a-kind experience, their learning can not be a one size-fits all process. For that reason, my philosophy of teaching is founded on a Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Not only the instructional design for UDL is inclusive, it explores multiple methods for teaching, ensuring that every learning style is optimized. My ultimate goal is to:
Put learners at ease by providing them with psychological safety, optimizing their abilities
Provide them with knowledge transfer in effective ways
Motivate them to become the agent of change to improve lives
Offer them confidence for continued success.
I have arrived at this vision by observing the benefits I have reaped from lifelong learning opportunities, understanding my personal goals as a learner as well as a teacher, discovering my style as a facilitator thanks to assessments such as Conti’s Principles of Adult Learning Scale (PALS, 1998), Zinn’s Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory (PAEI, 2007).
About putting students at ease for optimized learning potential:
“Social justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure.” (Bell, 2007, p. 21). This quote perfectly describes the environment I strive to create for the classes I teach. By fostering a sense of safety and security, my goal is to put students at ease in order for them to maximize their learning potential. Besides “setting the climate for effective teaching and learning” (Sisco, 1991, pp. 41-48), I aspire to treat the classroom like a team. Not only do I get to know each student, but I also encourage the class to bond and engage as a cohesive team. I have noticed that small team bonding activities allow everyone to be relaxed about being part of the class. Putting students at ease among peers is a very important step because the camaraderie solicits participation. It also motivates the group to learn as a class, which is very stimulating for everyone.
On providing knowledge-transfer in effective ways:
When I participated in Conti’s Principles of Adult Learning Scale (PALS), it assessed my teaching inclination to be “somewhat learner-centered”. I concur with the assessment. By definition, my teaching style is collaborative in the sense where both teacher and students have a shared authority for the curriculum. I don’t view my knowledge and experience as all absolute. There is always another perspective to consider. As I reflected further on how I should interpret the word “somewhat” (learner-centered) as opposed to “completely” (learner-centered), I attributed this penchant to the fact that as a facilitator of learning, I still want to have a small level of "control" on certain aspects of the course or curriculum. I want to be able to cover all of the material in the allocated time, I want to remain on topic, I want to be an effective instructor and ensure the content is relevant to the learners. At the same time, I value that the characteristics of adult learners are diverse: their age, experience, cultural background, geographical location, intellectual affinity as described in Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 2017). All of these elements do matter greatly in setting the right tone for the learning environment. Furthermore, I have a high degree of respect for the learner’s self-discovery so I will constantly allow time for reflection, much needed time to apply the learning to one's personal scenario.
For motivating students to become the agent of change to improve lives:
“Motivating instructors are not entirely magical”….There are five pillars to be a motivating instructor, they are “expertise, empathy, enthusiasm, clarity and cultural responsiveness.” (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 2017, p. 48-79). Indeed, these values establish the founding elements for motivating learners. When I took part of Zinn’s Philosophy of Adult Education Inventory (PAEI), I reckoned that I scored highly in all categories (Radical Adult Education, Liberal Arts Adult Education, Behavioral Adult Education, Humanistic Adult Education, Progressive Adult Education) because I believe that education is meant to provide people with a broader perspective. As a result, it is possible to have an Adult Education Inventory that mirrors the total of these values. I view education as a mean for positive social change (Radical Adult Education). To arrive there, one must first develop intellectually (Liberal Arts Adult Education) in order to become competent (Behavioral Adult Education) and self-actualized (Humanistic Adult Education). These fundamental skillsets allow us to acquire practical problem-solving for application to everyday life (Progressive Adult Education). My philosophy of teaching is a process composed of transformational themes.
On offering confidence for continued success:
As the old adage goes “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” My job as a facilitator of learning is an enabler of competencies to allow learners to expand their interests for greater achievements in life. After cultivating their enthusiasm for learning about the topics I teach, my goal is to help them maintain the same level of fervor for a lifetime of learning.
Finally, I frame my curriculum with formative and summative evaluations. They are effective measurements to help me validate that the learning took place and how it should be maintained.
Adams, M., Bell, L. A., & Griffin, P. (2007). Teaching for diversity and social justice. New York, NY: Routledge.
Davis, J. R. (2013). Facilitating seven ways of Learning: A resource for more purposeful, effective, and enjoyable college teaching. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing LLC.
Galbraith, M. W. (2004). Adult learning methods: A guide for effective instruction. Malabar, FL: Krieger.
Sisco, B. (1992). Setting the climate for successful teaching and learning. Adult Learning, 3(6), 26-26. https://doi.org/10.1177/104515959200300612
Wlodkowski,R. J. (2017). Enhancing adult motivation to learn. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.