Instructors have the obscure task of bringing diverse groups of individuals to comparable levels of competency within the contrived time and space boundaries created by courses. Students arrive with prior knowledge and experience, existing learning relationships, and a wide range of personal goals and objectives. They infuse the course learning ecology with unique cultures, personalities and abilities. The foundation of my teaching and learning philosophy is the acknowledgment that: The learning environment is not THE learning environment.
Information is no longer scarce, and cannot be easily contained within the boundaries of a course. It is important to my personal professional development to recognize that the value of my expertise is not in my domain knowledge, but in my ability to facilitate connections and relationships beyond these boundaries. The physical and virtual classroom spaces, content, assignments, activities, and assessments I provide are supplemental to each student’s personal learning environment.
To prepare students for tomorrow’s opportunities, we must help them identify their personal learning environments and apply their learning experiences to professional practice. I build this awareness through transparency with my own personal and professional learning. I carry this beyond philosophy and into professional practice by implementing some of the following instructional strategies:
Conduct an informal prior learning assessment, including uncovering students’ personal objectives for taking the course and attending college.
Offer students frequent opportunities for self-assessment without negatively impacting their course grades.
Solicit frequent feedback from students and be prepared to modify instruction to meet their needs.
Encourage students to select learning activities that involve their friends, family, colleagues and classmates from this and other classes.
Encourage students to repurpose assignments they’ve done in other classes to help them make new connections between the content of multiple courses.
Create assignments that are relevant and useful beyond the life of the course, and that allow students to uncover and solve problems they find personally meaningful and relevant.
Allow students to use technology to conduct research, connect with people outside the class boundaries, create original content, and evaluate information.
Cut back some of the course content and provide opportunities for students to locate and contribute content and resources.
The learning environment is not THE learning environment. By recognizing and embracing the learning that happens outside my control as an instructor, I can better fulfill the college mission of preparing students for today’s careers and tomorrow’s opportunities.
My philosophy of instructional leadership and management prioritizes the facilitation of learning relationships as the key to successful student outcomes. As an instructional leader, I am responsible for removing barriers that prevent instructors and students from successfully building learning relationships that enhance the academic experience and lead to mutually desired outcomes. Leadership and management are separate concepts that work together in service of this ultimate goal.
As a leader, I strive to understand the motivation and desires of the people I serve by listening to their stories and concerns. I uncover the history of an organization and look for patterns that explain the culture. I build trust by creating a safe environment for exploration and innovation. I believe instructors best understand what is needed to develop the most successful learning relationships with their students. It is my role to listen to those needs and facilitate those relationships by removing barriers within my control.
In my leadership role, I am also a source of innovation and a champion of change. It is my responsibility to conduct environmental scans, gather competitive intelligence, connect with external contacts, and maintain awareness of emerging trends. I must take initiative and incorporate innovative practices, while respecting the culture of the organization and the learning relationships that lead to student success.
As a manager, I am responsible for procuring and maintaining the resources needed for faculty, staff and students to teach and learn in a healthy and safe environment, with relevant equipment and materials. I must be proactive in identifying problems and finding reasonable solutions in an organization with competing priorities. Ensuring operational efficiency and fiscal responsibility can help remove barriers to teaching and learning.
By keeping a broad view of college operations, I am able to recognize opportunities for increased efficiency and more sustainable resource allocation. Participating in committees and building relationships with other divisions can help identify potential collaborations. When internal solutions are not readily available, I am able to reach out to my extended network of contacts from other colleges and business and industry.
Both as a leader and a manager, my objective is to identify and remove barriers to successful teaching and learning. Our people are our biggest asset and our investment in their success is the number one thing we can do to ensure the success of our students. It is my responsibility to remove the operational obstacles and allow our faculty and students to build relationships that lead to truly exceptional learning experiences.