Essay details:

  • Subject area(s): Philosophy
  • Price: Free download
  • Published on: 21st September 2019
  • File format: Text
  • Number of pages: 2

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The flow of empirical knowledge and practical skills to the next generation of world

citizens is paramount to the success and sustainability of our global community. Education has

always been central to my career goals for this reason and from the sheer joy I get when a

student reaches an “ah-hah” moment. My overall philosophy is that if I am having a good time

teaching, the students are likely having a good time learning. Interest is contagious, and students

can quickly tell whether an instructor is “going through the motions” or genuinely engaged. A

typical day in my classroom begins by asking students a big-picture question, allowing them to

ponder over it for a few minutes, followed by a class discussion. The class discussion leads into a

brief lesson on the subject in order to brief students for the day's lab activity, interactive lecture,

or student-led discussion of primary literature. Finally, the last ten minutes are always spent

making sense of the day's work by asking the students to think about (and turn in responses on

an exit-slip) a question that puts the day's lesson in the context of broader course concepts. This

approach has worked successfully in K-12, undergraduate, and graduate classrooms alike.

Throughout my career I have worked towards developing innovative approaches to

maximizing student engagement. In a study I conducted with my students at Garfield High

School I found that lessons performed using familiar personal technology (e.g. tablet pcs) were

successful in enhancing student engagement and subject matter retention (Ward et al., 2013).

Likewise, I have observed successful applications of utilizing text messaging for communication

between teachers/students and students working in groups. Another useful approach to engaging

students is empowering them to take ownership of their own learning. For example, I have

designed lab activities and curricular units with an inquiry-based structure that tasked students

with playing the role of researchers or criminal investigators (Ward and Petrik-Finley, 2015).

Under this model students were immediately engaged at a level I had not seen previously. An

inquiry-based structure is a powerful approach when combined with differential learning

opportunities (e.g. accelerated/simplified learning materials for excelling/struggling students).

Finally, creating a personal connection between course content and student interests is of utmost

importance. An effective strategy for accomplishing this is integrating locally/culturally-relevant

themes into course curriculum.

My approach to mentoring has evolved from early experiences as a sailing coach, where I

learned the importance of positive reinforcement. The most important message I try to convey to

students that I mentor is to step out of their comfort zone and always seek new perspectives. For

example, I challenge students to not limit their course work to the minimum requirements for

their major and to think more closely about the steps needed to reach future goals. Likewise, I

believe that undergraduate students should be given opportunities to work independently on

ambitious goals in the lab rather than simply cleaning glassware. For example, I have trained

undergraduates to perform complex organic chemistry techniques such as the extraction and

analysis of specific compounds (e.g. lignin phenols, amino acids, etc.) and have supported

Brazilian students in performing detailed field campaigns. When mentoring both undergraduate

and graduate level students I believe in finding the sweet spot between independence and micromanagement,

which varies with each individual. It is important to push students to excel, but I

have also seen the negative effects of over-reaching in this regard (e.g. burnout). Guiding

students towards aligning their interests with career goals and providing opportunities to help

them actualize these objectives is central to my philosophy as a mentor. Open conversations

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