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Principles of Teaching and Learning

These teaching and learning principles are based on the notion of transformational learning, which is defined as a process of questioning old assumptions, values, perspectives, and beliefs and making them more open and accessible. Knowing our students and their world is the first step to designing a transformative learning experience for all.

The following teaching and learning principles allow me to empower students to believe in their ability to achieve their highest potential. In this section, I will share with you why each principle is critical to empowering our students and help them develop learner agency:

  • Knowing your students

  • Knowing how your students learn

  • Respecting diverse backgrounds, talents, and ways of learning

  • Aligning learning objectives, assessments, and instructional activities

  • Communicating student-driven expectations and objectives

  • Offering formative feedback

  • Ongoing learning and reflection

Knowing your students

Knowing my students involves developing a student profile to identify their motivations, aspirations, and challenges. I gather information from enrolment data and from the students themselves about age, marital status, socioeconomic background, race, and ethnicity, and native versus international. A week or so before the first class, I send out an email or a video to students with information about the course, my background, my teaching methods, skills they’ll learn, how the course relates to their life, and how enthusiastic and passionate I am about teaching and working with them. At this time, I also introduce the concept of “first impressions” and the belief that we only have about seven seconds to make a first impression.

I then begin developing my course with the students in mind. Various sections of the course are designed together with my students during our first class. By doing this, I develop trust, respect, and interest in all of my students, which motivates them to commit to their learning goals.

A first-class icebreaker allows students to introduce themselves to others and practice the first impression experience in real time. Then we discuss how the perception of others aligns with their perception of themselves. At this time, we also discuss the importance of communication, values, cultures, and perceptions. This principle is useful in developing learner agency as students become motivated and committed to their learning because it’s relevant to their own needs and goals.

Know how students learn

Metacognition is the process of thinking about one’s own thinking or awareness and management of one’s own thoughts. One way in which students achieve metacognitive awareness is by practicing mindfulness meditation, which has been defined as the awareness that emerges from paying attention on purpose in a non-judgmental way. I also use mindfulness to help students become aware of their strengths and weaknesses, reflect on their thinking, and control their stress and anxiety.

People are born learners and have a need for agency, autonomy, and self-determination. However, understanding how one learns and thinks about one’s own learning can help in becoming a more accomplished learner. In particular, metacognition can assist in recognising barriers to learning and pave the way to removing them. Teacher-centric learning that relies more on pedagogy can take agency and be a barrier to learning whereas more learner-centered approaches enable agency.

Respecting diverse backgrounds, talents and ways of learning

Students bring to the classroom varied cultural backgrounds, knowledge, skills, and attitudes that impact how they learn, their self-efficacy for learning, and their learner agency. I try to design my learning processes to accommodate all types of learners from all backgrounds. One approach that I use is that students select learning activities that fit the way they learn best. Thus, the learner is an active partner and has agency in determining the learning process with the teacher as a guide in recognition of individuality. In addition, we want to ensure that together we create a safe learning environment where everyone thrives by being aware of our individual differences.

Aligning learning objectives, assessments, and instructional activities

Providing students with experiential and authentic learning activities allows students to become motivated to discover and construct knowledge and to develop a greater appreciation for the subject matter and longer content retention. Role playing and service learning are two authentic activities that students enjoy as they interact with other students and apply their own knowledge to real world situations.

Communicating expectations and objectives

Teachers and students alike have personal expectations. Awareness and sharing of these expectations are important in the learning partnership. This is especially true for my international students and first-generation students whose educational experiences may be different to mine and each other’s.

Offering diverse methods of feedback

Feedback is important to learning and growth. Formative feedback helps promote learner agency. It enables students to be in control of and to reflect on their learning, change behaviour where needed, and to develop persistence and resilience to finishing the work: skills they need to thrive in the real world. Feedback as assessment can be used as part of the learning process rather than an end in itself, with the learner as a partner.

Ongoing learning and reflection

Reflective practice is intended to promote critical thinking. Students reflect on their learning and how it applies to the real world. By doing so, students become empowered to self-correct habits of mind as they may become evident during the reflection process. Reflective learning is equally important to teachers. As a reflective educator practitioner, I use evidence to continually evaluate and adapt to meet the needs of each student and of my own.

Thank you for taking the time to read it and do let me know your thoughts.

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