As far as I’m concerned, being a professor in a collegiate environment is the best career in the whole world. I must first acknowledge that my own teaching philosophy is informed by my standing on the shoulders of my predecessors in the education field. I refer, of course, to my parents. I am the product of two parents who were both educators. My mother taught Music Education and my father was a Flight Instructor. These two academic disciplines, each with their own unique language and skills, allowed me to see from an early age that excellent teaching is universal across all subjects. Today, I hope to honor the universal essence of quality teaching by emphasizing critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.
I first began reflecting on my future teaching philosophy as a student. There is nothing like the satisfaction of understanding a difficult topic. How did the best teachers get me to understand? I started my teaching career in political science and tried to be the “sage on the stage” like my favorite professors before me. I quickly noticed however that while getting through a lecture without making mistakes was useful on a personal level, I developed an interest in assessing whether the students came away with any additional knowledge. I ran through the usual gambit such as tougher exams, more quizzes, and differing varieties of homework. Finally, I asked the question: what do I want out of my students, better exam scores or something else? Easy! I want the students to be able to critically think for themselves given the subject at hand and not rely on others for interpretation.
I am also a pilot and a flight instructor, and it is interesting to note that the Federal Aviation Administration requires flight instructor applicants to study educational psychology techniques. I noticed that my aviation students often succeeded. Another instructor, who was a better pilot than I, often had students who often dropped out or failed. My students explained to me that I engendered a positive social environment where students were encouraged to collaborate and develop meaningful relationships which softened the blow if they suffered setbacks from time to time. Encouraging my student pilots to engage and participate in a positive social climate allowed for anxiety and stress to recede into the background when confronted with difficult academic challenges.
This concept of developing a positive social climate to facilitate instruction intrigued me enough to discover the theories of Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist. He argued that social interactions are absolutely fundamental to learning. As a result, I began implementing a pedagogical technique called Team-Based Learning (TBL) into my aviation, political science, and psychology classes. This pedagogical technique is designed to allow students the ability to make choices, critically think, employ creativity, and communicate with others.
Students are first posed with questions regarding course content over what they read, or what we have discussed previously. The students are broken into teams and are encouraged to think about and discuss the issues at hand with their team members for a set amount of time. The teams are guided to make choices regarding quiz or assignment questions in the allotted time frame. If the team answers the question correctly, they receive additional points. This method encourages all students in a team to collaborate with each other and critically think about the topic at hand. Therefore, I have removed myself from the wholly teacher-centered model of the classroom, and allow the focus to be on the student-centered model “guide on the side.” This method is perhaps the most effective for knowledge development because the students must internalize, synthesize, and verbally explain their point of views on the subject to others in their team.
At Oklahoma State University, I taught several sections of a psychology class entitled Learning to Learn. This class was offered online and my predecessors utilized discussion boards in Blackboard. My wife had just finished her degree in nursing and remarked how much it seemed like professors and students alike felt disdain for discussion boards. I decided to try something new. I added a “Chat” function to Blackboard and held twice a week synchronous chats. Students would come to the chat, interact with their peers and myself while answering structured questions related to the topic. The chats required the students to answer academically enough to satisfy me the instructor, but also be able to explain their response to their college peers. Even in an online classroom, I hold as a central tenant that a student’s social interactions through communication play a fundamental role in the development of cognition and that community plays a central role in the process of making meaning.
In my opinion, quality education isn’t solely focused on convincing students that the instructor has academic mastery of the subject. That is the teacher-centered model of the classroom. I hope to inspire students to become knowledgeable in a subject by giving them the requisite tools to take their knowledge to the next level. I wish to build long lasting knowledge in students through the scholarly pedagogical techniques I have studied and implemented into my classrooms. No matter what subject I am teaching, my teaching philosophy relies heavily on bringing students into an environment of critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.
My philosophy of teaching comes from a wide variety of experience. I have enjoyed teaching positions at community colleges, universities, and flight schools. Though my experience is broad, I have developed a firm grasp of my own philosophy of education. Education is a wonderful discipline because we as educators are always striving to learn the next great educational technique and pedagogy. However, one aspect of education that I bring to the forefront is the student themselves. Without an understanding of the physical, emotional, and psycho-social aspects of learning, an educator may not find themselves effective. As students advance through different levels of education, it is paramount that I am able to encourage students to think not only of themselves, but to think of all of humanity while they go through their studies. As Aristotle says in his Nicomachean Ethics, ‘It is the mark of an educated mind to consider all possibilities without accepting them as true.’ I can only hope that I allow my students to further develop their educated minds through consideration of all possible viewpoints. It is also my hope to implement an environment that encourages students to be critical thinkers of the world, and to encourage critical thinking in their own families and environments years after they have taken their last course with me.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to consider all possibilities without accepting them as true.”
As an instructor, it is my job to make sure that students are meeting the goals for not only their courses, but also for their future lives. Personally, I hold myself accountable every semester and in every class to allow the students to see how the material we cover in a class strongly relates to their own personal lives, even when the connection is not obvious. I strongly believe that preparing lessons and activities that include questions that ask the students to call upon current information in the course and tie it back to the course objectives is one of the best ways to incorporate these objectives, but in a way that asks the students to make the connection. As I believe that challenging the students to go deeper than just the surface level of information from the class, providing activities and incorporating discussion questions really asks them to think about these course objectives in more broad and applicable ways than simply in my class.
It is my hope that my classroom is a place where students feel safe and comfortable enough to discuss ideas and ask questions of me and their fellow classmates. Being able to ask questions of peers and the instructor are important in fostering learning for students. I also believe it is important for students to voice their concerns without fear of retribution. Not every student will like the way the course that I teach is designed, and that is their right. I feel that students should be able to come to me with those concerns knowing that I respect how they feel and try to understand why they feel that way. It is also my hope that an enriching environment is created through the use of collaboration groups that students are in all semester. I believe that this provides students with the opportunity to discuss ideas in a manner that is conducive to working with one another and being able to come to a consensus. Both individual work and group work are highly valued in my class, as both skills are absolutely necessary for success in the real world.
My philosophy takes the position that learning is an individual experience and process. There are overarching theories that contribute to the understanding of learning, but each individual must discover what learning is to them. Each learner must find the personal value in the information being presented and find that motivation to go beyond the surface level of what is being presented. The process through which learners discover these ideas is one that is likely to change as learners grow and mature and experience new phenomena in their lives. I hope to be at once a facilitator, guide, and advocate for each student as they learn.
Tulsa Community College
Assistant Professor of Aviation Sciences & Technology
12/2017 – Present
- AVST 1113 – Private Pilot Ground School
- AVST 1222 – Private Pilot Flight Lab
- AVST 1403 – Advanced Theory of Flight
- AVST 2132 – Instrument Flight Lab
- AVST 2162 – Commercial Cross Country Flight Lab
- AVST 2181 – Flight Certification Training
Adjunct Instructor of Political Science
01/2016 – Present
- POLS 1113 – American Federal Government
Reflection: I have taught taught a wide variety of classes at Tulsa Community College. To date, I can safely say that all of my actions inside and outside the classroom have been as a result of the Educational Psychology Ph.D. program at Oklahoma State University. Before starting my Ph.D., I thought I knew what good teaching practices were. Largely, my intuitions were right, but because of the experiences as a graduate research and gradaute teaching assistant in a program dedicated towards advanced pedagogy and learning, I have been able to further enhance my courses and therefore advance my students my students. Examples: I have incorporated Team-Based Learning into my each Political Science class, as well as incorporating a variety of instructional methods into my Private Pilot Ground School courses.
For the artifacts, I wanted to demonstrate that my teaching has gone beyond the traditional classroom. In the POLS 1113 class, I had an Oklahoma Representative come to our class, where he answered questions that the government students had previously chosen. This was a positive experience for both the representative and the students. For the Advanced Theory of Flight artifact, I chose a document that reflected another “out of the box” experience. Students flipped their roles and became examiners of other students. Students put themselves in the role of a pilot examiner and evaluated their peers. The results of this experience allowed the pilot students to further understand what an examiner may be looking for in the future as they advance through their pilot certificates.
Oklahoma State University
OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY
Graduate Teaching & Research Assistant
08/2014 – 05/2017
- EPSY 1003 – Learning to Learn
- EPSY 3313 – Psychological Foundations of Childhood (Online and Face-to-Face)
Reflection: I am most tremendously proud of my work using Synchronous Group Chats at Oklahoma State University. I was given the EPSY 1003 – Learning to Learn class. This class is analogous to many colleges and universities who utilize the “First Year Experience” freshman seminar. However, this class was offered only online. I had difficult decision to make! I could facilitate this class in a traditional online format, where I would expect many first-generation students to not succeed, or I could find a way to make this course interactive.
In an attempt to avoid the “Death by Discussion Board” format, and in an attempt to get the students accustomed to participating in classes, I utilized BrightSpace’s (previously Desire2Learn) Chat feature. I offered two times that the students could log in and complete a synchronous chat with myself and the other students. For example: Students would log in at 7:00PM on a Tuesday night and answer questions and have a conversation with me and their peers over the academic topics of the week. Students were initially unsure of the format. However, by the end of my teaching at OkState there was a wait list to take the course specifically because of the Chat format (according to student evaluations and academic advisers.
Additionally, included my Presentation Guide to the students. I found that many first-generation students had no template for making a successful in-class presentation. The students were told to use Prezi.com and uploaded the presentations for their peers to watch. Prezi allowed the students to be more creative than the typical powerpoint presentations.
Texas Tech University
Instructor of Political Science & Honors College
12/2011 – 05/2014
- POLS 2302 – Public Policy
- POLS 2302 – Public Policy (Honors College)
- POLS 2302 – Public Policy (Online)
- POLS 3300 – Political Theory
- POLS 3300 – Policy Paradox
Reflection: Teaching at Texas Tech University was an incredible gift. I had the distinct honor of teaching in the Department of Political Science and the Honors College. I taught several lower and upper level undergraduate courses, ranging from the basic Public Policy courses to Political Theory (typically reserved for very senior faculty). At Texas Tech I had my first experience teaching to a class of over 150 students! It took me about 5 weeks to discover that I shouldn’t give a quiz every week, as I was the only one who graded the papers! Additionally, it was here at TTU that I taught my first online class. I had to completely rethink my approach to online courses and try and develop instructional tools and materials to help facilitate learning. It was here that I first began my crusade against the “Death by Discussion Boards” model as I began to understand that my students weren’t gaining knowledge or understanding by participating in the discussion board format.
The Political Theory course was specifically designed as a Writing Intensive course by the institution. Each undergraduate had to take one Writing Intensive course before they could graduate with a bachelors degree. One of the hardest challenges with students is getting them to understand that writing is a process, and that sometimes the grading of writing is a subjective process as well. Therefore, I developed a Political Theory Paper Rubric. In an attempt to show each student that their writing would never be perfect on a first draft, I had students submit their papers to each other in incremental stages. Students were highly receptive to peer feedback and as a result their grades were higher when they received their final grade from me.
South Plains College
Instructor of Government
08/2011 – 05/2014
- GOVT 2301 – American Government, Fundamentals
- GOVT 2302 – American Government, Organization
Reflection: I cut my teeth as a teacher at South Plains College, a community college. I was given my first course as instructor of record at the old age of 24 with no syllabus, textbook, or guidance on how to conduct a course. Looking back, it was incredible I survived! However, I quickly realized that I had knack for teaching others and that not only could I tolerate the process, I thoroughly enjoyed teaching. My students ranged from the 18 year old student to the 70 year old student. I quickly discovered that my style of teaching needed to be adaptive from minute to minute in these community college classrooms so that I could reach each student. I first learned the old adage of “take the student where they are” from teaching at South Plains College. Teaching at a small community college opened my eyes on the possibilities of becoming a professor, and was the catalyst for my career trajectory.