The community college experience should be learner-centered
In the learning process, I see myself as a facilitator instead of “lecturer,” “instructor,” or “teacher.” While my education in the communication discipline has offered me particular insight, it is vital to remember that my students have their own areas of expertise and their own ways of knowing. By serving as a facilitator, I work to ensure that these individual forms of knowledge are shared in order to create social capital that all my students contribute to and are invested in. In the face-to-face classroom, I steer clear of the traditional lecture format in favor of a more interactive and experiential approach that relies heavily on critical thinking, group work, and individual reflection. In the online environment, I eschew the commonly used PowerPoint lecture in favor of small and large group discussion, individual and group projects, collaborative wikis, and personal reflective blogs. Furthermore, I use a variety of humorous, popular media in the classroom to pique student interest and explain difficult concepts in unique and entertaining ways.
Good classroom facilitation utilizes a variety of instructional techniques to appeal to students' diverse learning styles
Because different students build knowledge in different ways, students in my courses are offered opportunities to engage in individual work and reflection, small group projects and conversations, and large group activities and discussions. Since students also excel at different types of tasks, I offer a range of graded assignments to “level the playing field,” including traditional multiple-choice tests, research papers, written reflections, movie analyses, peer reviews, and oral presentations. Since students listen and learn in different ways, each class period contains a mix of auditory elements (mini-lectures and class discussions), visual elements (PowerPoint slides, video clips, pictures), and experiential elements (dyad, group, and class activities as well as reflective exercises). Finally, in all my courses, I actively encourage students to find connections between concepts discussed in class and the actuality of their own lives. I believe that when students can make this connection, true understanding can occur.
The classroom environment (online or face-to-face) must be a safe space to explore new ideas
I believe students truly understand the principles and processes of communication when they can actually practice them. It is my responsibility as a classroom facilitator to make sure a space is created where this is possible. A classroom environment, either online or face-to-face, must feel “safe” to students of all standpoints, and communication apprehension must be recognized, explained, and effectively managed. I believe that a comfortable environment is created when students have opportunities to get to know their peers as unique and diverse individuals. I also believe that students are more invested in a course specifically and their education more generally when they are offered opportunities to build social relationships through focused course interaction with their peers.
Critical thinking is vital for academic, personal, and professional growth
All of the courses I teach feature a critical component. Most courses contain large assignments that hone critical thinking skills (like persuasive speeches, extended movie analyses, or problem-solving symposia), but the majority of critical thinking in the classroom is situated in day-to-day practice. Students come to my courses with all sorts of different truths and ways of looking at the world, and I believe it is my responsibility to encourage discussion throughout the semester that gives focused attention to these distinct viewpoints. Through group activities, self-reflection, and peer feedback, students are encouraged to examine their assumptions in light of new (and sometimes conflicting) information. Sometimes these truths are validated, other times they are complicated, and still other times students gain new understandings that radically transform previous perceptions.