My teaching philosophy, part 1

by Sarah Luna

I realize I haven’t updated here in a few days. Please understand that I’m in the midst of projects and finals and socialization. 🙂 But I’ve decided to treat you to one of my assignments. As a first time TA, I’m expected to draft a two page (~500 word) declaration of my teaching philosophy for my TA mentor. I’m not sure if he’s looking for something more professional or something more reflective, but he’s getting something reflective. So here goes. (ok, just know I’ll clean it up before sending it to him :P)

1. Goals for Student Learning

At the introductory nutrition level, the goals set for me by the course syllabus are as follows: teach a sensitivity to and an appreciation of good health and behaviors necessary to maintain good health throughout life, present contemporary scientific information on the preservation of health and the prevention of disease, teach contemporary methods for the acquisition of information about health and disease, improve critical thinking skills necessary to evaluate health and nutrition claims, improve ability to persuade using logic, scientific evidence and good writing skills. I agree wholeheartedly with each of those goals. My additional goals for my students were for them to appreciate the complexity of the human body, to have a basic knowledge of human metabolic pathways, and to develop the skills to integrate health concepts in their lives beyond the classroom.

2. Enactment of Goals

My interactions with students were limited to weekly office hours and an optional writing seminar. My teaching method during office hours was to let the student explain their question to me first and then let them explain what they think is wrong and how to fix it. Letting them verbalize their issues helped to clarify for both of us what exactly they wanted me to do. As their TA, it is not my responsibility to simply give them the answer. My goal is to enable learning. I believe in giving my students as much help and resources as they need to master a concept. If they ask for an explanation of a concept, I will take the time to diagram it, talk through it, and let the student write down my every word.

To relate my methods to my goals, I hope to foster a sense of awe of the human body. Thus, when I explain a concept, I don’t hold back my own enthusiasm. I gesture, I draw stick figures, I’ll animate myself. The students who come to my office hours are more engaged when they see that I really enjoy what I’m teaching them. My ease with the subject encourages them to ask questions that they otherwise feel might be “dumb”.

3. Assessment of Goals (Measurements of Student Learning)

I was responsible for my students’ term paper grades. I graded all aspects of that semester-long assignment. The course coordinator provided us TAs with a very structured rubric. As first it frustrated me that I had so control over how to award points. As time progressed, I realized the importance of a micromanaged rubric, so to speak. The rubric did not give me room to address my students’ creativity or higher level writing skills, but it addressed the scientific goals of the class.

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Just met with my mentor and discussed my (more refined) thoughts. Apparently my reflective tone was perfect for this document since it is a very personal statement and vision. He suggested taking out the headings and integrating everything together. He advised me to keep this as a first draft of a “living document” and revise it and generalize it after each semester as a TA.

This is a very personal task for me because I do envision myself in a teaching and mentoring position at some point in my life.

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