I was asked recently to "out loud" my teaching philosophy, and so I thought I'd share the product of that process here.
I believe that the educational process is a symbiotic one in which the responsibilities - and the power - associated with the transfer of knowledge and skills are distributed equally between the teacher and the learner. I believe that each individual enters the learning space armed - and sometimes laden - with his own pre-constructed knowledge, experiences, perspectives, motivations, and habits of learning. As an educator, I see myself as a facilitator of the process of learning - a tour guide of sorts - and I recognize that every class session, every exchange in fact, offers an opportunity for learning and growth on both the part of the learner and myself.
I always begin the first session of a course telling my students that I look forward to learning alongside them, and I truly mean that as that has been my experience in every course I have ever taught. In my mind, it is my job and my privilege to co-construct knowledge with the students I teach. In my training as an instructional designer, I learned to start with the end in mind; that is, I begin the process of teaching by clearly identifying what the outcomes of the course will be, and then I work backwards from there, carefully considering how the design of the course will most effectively meet the needs of the unique and diverse backgrounds, personalities, and needs of the learners in my class. I make a point to "out loud" the requirements of a course so that every learner knows the point of every assignment. I want to provide challenges that are at an appropriate challenge level for each student in my class. I strive to push them while at the same time helping them to feel supported. In addition, I endeavor to facilitate an increase in the self-directedness and the confidence of each student while affording them opportunities to participate in both formative and summative assessment tied to learner outcome goals. To borrow from the philosophy of anthropology, it is through making the strange familiar and the familiar strange that I want to enable learning in my students - by helping them learn how to break down things that seem complex so that they become achievable and by pushing them to think about things with which they are acquainted in a different way.
I believe in the power of storytelling; I believe students' learning and growth is most effectively promoted through exposure to real-life situations that relate to the content of the course in an environment in which they feel respected. I see the organization of a course and its content as a way to convey that respect, to establish trust, and to set up students for success. I strive to employ the principles of universal design for learning in my teaching so that each student is propelled towards growth and recognized for the uniqueness that he or she brings to the teaching and learning process. I always try to grade as objectively as possible and to provide personalized and timely feedback to each learner because I feel that is essential to the learning process. I want to understand where my students are coming from and to support them in figuring out where they are going, so to speak. I want them not only to learn the material associated with a particular course but also to examine the way they think and the way they are situated in the world in which they live. I want each learner to feel inspired, valued, and empowered in the courses I teach and by their education in general. I recognize the privilege and the responsibility of teaching and keep in sight both in everything that I do as an OT educator.
Stephanie Lancaster, MS, OTR/L, ATP, CAPS is an occupational therapist with 28+ years of clinical experience. As an assistant professor, Stephanie trumpets the value of teaching and practicing in the field of OT in an "out loud" manner.
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