“Progressive, holistic education, "engaged pedagogy" is more demanding that conventional critical or feminist pedagogy. For, unlike these two teaching practices, it emphasizes well-being. That means that teachers must be actively involved committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes their own well-being if they are to teach in a manner that empowers students” (Hooks 1994: 15)
Hooks, Bell (1994) Teaching to Transgress. Education as the practice of freedom, London: Routledge. 216.
I embrace teaching as an opportunity to inspire and empower. As a teacher, it is my goal to enhance student learning as a transformative experience. In my experience teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in both formal and informal settings, I have worked to operationalize my teaching philosophy. While my teaching objectives vary, depending upon the course level and content, my philosophy serves to inform my practice. In designing a course format and evaluation requirements, I strive to optimise student engagement and success.
To date, I have primarily taught courses in the fields of Computer Science including Games Design & Development, Multimedia and WWW Technology, an area in constant change. It is highly interdisciplinary, and this fact is represented in the make-up of the course syllabus and students in my courses. The industry-standard tools and techniques today will easily be obsolete tomorrow. Knowing the tools and techniques do help the students in their future work. However the underlying principles of how these work are as important. These include software engineering principles and their applications to building web-based applications, the psychology of human thinking and visual design principles. In this statement of teaching philosophy, I will use one of the courses I have designed and taught, the Internet/WWW Technology course; a capstone course for final year students before they proceed with industrial placement and final year project.
I believe that the learning process is best when it is a collaboration between students and the instructor. It is my expectation that students learn from me and from each other. The connection and energy established between my students and me is a powerful teaching technique that I use in creating an optimal learning experience.
Understanding how people learn is one of the significant aspects of teaching. This is linked to their “knowledge” background and maturity. The key is to relate to the audience by starting from what they know and building upon it. Providing real life everyday examples make it very easy. For example, I relate Internet to a busy city street with Shops y the roadside. The street is the Internet and Shops are websites that have addresses or “URL”, window dressing as Splash Page or Main Page and the size of streets (whether they are a narrow roads, 3-lanes motorway or a 6-lanes motorway) to the size of a network connection bandwidth.
Secondly, I believe that students retain more of what they learn in a course when they have some ownership over their learning. To that end, I focus on Active learning and the use of real-world examples to give students the tools to apply their knowledge. My main goal is to encourage independent thinking and analytical reasoning to enhance their problem-solving skills, thus encouraging them to not just memorise or be passive receptacles.
I prompt them to question at every stage with Why? How? and satisfy their curiosity, instead of assuming the instructor is always right. My favourite approach is: “If you don’t have any question, I have some for you”. This prompts classroom discussions, which are very useful and led to several intellectually stimulating questions and/or arguments which are not easy to answer. The idea is to provide hints and baby steps, building on what they know, and lead them to the answer by making them think logically. The confidence they had gained from this exercise was revealed when they are more open in discussions, asking questions and giving comments during lecture, and tackling the questions and answers after their group presentations.
Technology is very useful and should be utilized effectively. I use audio-visual aids like using PowerPoint slides for lectures, providing hand outs, showing video clips to emphasize important points, and using web links are effective learning tools. In addition, I encourage the use of current software and techniques to stay in tune with the needs of the ever-changing information technology industry. In future, I plan to incorporate in-class problem solving worksheets.
I blend theory and practice throughout my courses, in lecture, seminar and tutorial settings. The practical usage of tools and techniques are stressed during seminar sessions and are complementary activities to the theory learnt during lectures. During seminar sessions, students are brought together in small groups, focusing each time on some particular task, where each member is requested to participate actively. For example, when teaching about e-marketing in lecture, the hands-on activities in the seminar would include reviewing real-life promotional materials, e.g. Lord of the Rings marketing package, creating an e-marketing plan according to their project and presenting the plans. In another session, students watched videos given by experts in the field of web applications security, i.e. Mr. Mark Burnett, author of Hacking the Code: ASP.NET Web Application Security, co-author of Stealing The Network: How to Own the Box, and consultant expert in web application security specializing in Windows security.
During industrial placement visitations, employers recommend on the need to improve communication and teamwork skills. These skills are essential in the area of multimedia and internet applications development. Every course I teach includes group project work that has a balanced mixture of both E-commerce and Multimedia students. In most cases, I design assignments that require students to take on individual roles and responsibilities parallel to industry roles, such as manager, programmer, artist, designer, etc., and then work together to achieve the larger project goals, i.e. geographically dispersed group members and responsible for different programming modules. They must communicate with their teammates, as well as members of other teams in similar roles, and of course with the client.
While I often include self-assessment tests to keep abreast with reading assignments and essential issues, the greater part of the grade is based on project work. To do truly well on a project, the student must be proficient in both the theory and practice and combine them into a cohesive product that demonstrates ultimate understanding.
Passion and excitement about the subject matter are must. I am passionate and excited about the subject matter, and hope to demonstrate these to my students through the way I communicate in class, experiences and research projects.
I have participated in a variety of development activities to continue growing as an educator. I have attended workshops for instructors on managing the classroom, leading a discussion, creating classroom goals and progress assessment, preparing a teaching portfolio and student counselling. My experience in teaching through both online and conventional classes for the last 13 years, and various projects such as curriculum design and development has strengthened many aspects of my professional development.
This statement of teaching philosophy provides the underlying framework to guide teaching and learning, research and development work, and the expected learning outcome when students complete a course. As I intimated earlier, my philosophy of teaching and its implementation are the result of trial-and-improve, advice from other instructors, feedback from students, personal observations, research and experience. I have found professional development opportunities very helpful in my own teaching, learning and research and feel strongly in giving back to those programmes whenever I can. The ultimate goal, of course, is always to do something that exceeds my previous abilities -- to keep learning.