Statement of Teaching Philosophy:
There are two aspects that keep me passionate about teaching: my daily interaction with students, and the opportunity to continue learning. I firmly believe that education is more than just the accumulation of knowledge, and that teaching is more than simple content delivery; rather, I see education as a partnership between student and teacher, in which both stand to gain from the encounter. I also believe that education is a process that need not – and indeed, should not – stop simply because one has completed a prescribed course of study. As an instructor, I therefore see my role as being twofold: firstly, to actively involve students in the learning experience; and, secondly, to model a commitment to learning that extends beyond the specific content of the courses I teach.
So what does it mean to actively involve students in learning? Reflecting on my experiences as both student and instructor, I believe there are several key facets to teaching. One is enthusiasm, both for the subject and for teaching. This impacts lectures and one-on-one interactions with students. I believe students are more willing to be challenged intellectually and academically if they believe they will get support, encouragement, and fair treatment from their instructor. A related facet is an awareness of the challenges students face in the classroom and laboratory, together with the willingness to listen to and address their questions and concerns. I believe it is important to be oneself, in order to establish a rapport and create a safe environment in which students can learn how to learn, including by learning from their mistakes.
My particular specialization, analytical chemistry, is a highly interdisciplinary and conceptually rich subject; the practice of analytical chemistry also impacts our lives on a daily basis, through clinical, environmental, food, pharmaceutical, and product testing. This breadth presents a considerable challenge to students, who show a substantial diversity of interests, prior knowledge, skills, intellectual development, learning styles, goals, and expectations. My challenge is therefore to find ways, through lectures, laboratory classes, and undergraduate research opportunities, to facilitate and promote active student learning and development. I address this through numerous practices (described and illustrated in the following sections) including:
- Providing clear objectives and guidelines for each course
- Outlining, connecting, and illustrating key concepts and topics
- Provoking individual reflection and group discussion through open-ended questions, group assignments, and case studies
- Providing both contemporary and historical context to content in order to encourage ‘big picture’ thinking and underline subject relevance
- Modelling ways of thinking and problem-solving, drawing on current research in both analytical chemistry and chemical education
- Bringing a high level of enthusiasm and student–instructor interaction to all teaching activities
- Actively soliciting student feedback on course material, exercises, and content