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Self-Assessment Statement: Teaching, A Philosophical and Practical Journey

(Disclaimer: Please ignore the rhetoric and jargon, however, the education-ese catch-phrases
are commonly understood and I included them as a necessary evil.)
Lois Oestreich
January 2016

What do you do? is a polite conversation starter in polite social settings. Knowing that
there is not a brief response that speaks fully to the depth of what is means to serve as a faculty
member in higher education, my typical quip is: I teach!
I have crafted many iterations of a teaching philosophy over the years. Hard as I try, these
statements failed to capture the depth I just mentioned. My philosophy of teaching is a
conglomeration of beliefs about teaching, learning, teachers, community college students, and
preservice teacher preparation. These beliefs sprouted from my own practical experience and
reflection as a teacher and learner, from studying theory and research on teaching and learning in
both the preservice world and higher education in general, and from collaborative faculty
development work with other teachers. In other words, I did not pull a philosophy from a box of
crackerjacks.
My philosophy of teaching begins and ends with students framed in effective and
skillfully executed pedagogy. I believe that all Salt Lake Community College students have the
ability to learn and the right to a quality education. These facts drive instructional delivery
methods and course design. Further, I believe that instructional design must meet these diverse
learners where they are and carry them to where they need to be for successful transfer and
completion of a preservice teacher education program. Teaching and learning are reciprocal
processes.
The classroom itself, whether face-to-face or online, must be alive and democratic. Life is
breathed into a classroom through engaging activities that purposefully connect diverse learners
with content in ways that make personal connections. Communication is a high priority.
Classrooms (face-to-face or online) must be fair, democratic, safe learning environments. In
preservice teaching programs higher education classroom also serve to model their future career
traits. In addition, demonstrating these ethically correct behaviors in the classroom and expecting
students to model them prepares them for adult interaction and survival in the future.
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If you are searching for the philosophical tenant that most clearly fits, I am a hardline
constructivist. Constructivism forces students to take an active role in their education by
assuming responsibility for intelligent inquiry and discovery. This key role is only realized with
intense, purposeful preparation on the part of the faculty member. For example, discussions,
projects, assignments, and assessments provide a venue for discovery. This, combined with
individual student's preferences and strengths, is a recipe for great learning. To the greatest extent
possible, differentiation is woven the fabric of each course particularly in the latitude allotted for
assignments and projects with a goal to make course content more relevant to every students
life.
Constructivisms next step it to motivate and inspire learning. Students deserve an
educator who has content knowledge and passion for both the subject matter and learning as a
whole. As a result, teaching and learning become a simultaneous journeys. Active learning is
included in each of my courses through activities that promote learning success. By recognizing
every student's potential I can accommodate personal needs and abilities by providing a variety
of ways for student to engage with course content, with me, and with their peers.
The end point is also the beginning: assessing student learning. I believe that assessment
data is the most influential course instructional design component in a teachers arsenal. Based
on semester assessment scores, and including an analysis of the quality of assessment responses,
instructional design is amended. These amendments are not to dumb-down curriculum, but to
realistically evaluate whether or not assignments, quizzes, projects, etc. align effectively with
course learning outcomes. Teaching is, itself, a never-ending question: what can be improved?
All of my courses are housed on Canvas. Carrying Canvas one step further, I strongly
advocate for fully online programs as educations future. To that end, faculty who work in the
online environment must be skilled in distance learning pedagogy.
Where does this conversation lead? It leads to the original question, What do I do? I
teach!
Reflection note: In all honesty, I do not have any new insights to this basic statement of
philosophy. As they say, this is a living document, and it will morph as I grow in the profession.
Check back with me in three years to see what new insights Ive discovered