My teaching philosophy

“(…) the best teachers assume that learning has little meaning
unless it produces a sustained and substantial influence
on the way people think, act, and fell”

(Ken, 2004: 17)

 

My approach to teaching has primarily developed through my experience at Hanken School of Economics (Helsinki and Vaasa, Finland) and Coventry University (UK), where I was involved in teaching at both undergraduate and graduate levels and acting as a supervisor of Bachelor, Masters and MBA dissertations. The seven years of teaching so far have challenged me to be more methodical but at the same time resourceful and innovative in my approaches to learning and teaching (Ramsden 1992). While being a PhD student at Hanken School of Economics and while taking part in various teaching possibilities at that school, I started feeling that teaching is the milestone, in which I can have the most significant impact on future generations. I have also realised that teaching is a profession that can be exhausting and time-consuming, but at the same time, the benefits outweigh the exhaustion dozen times over. Teaching requires patience, understanding, compassion, and enthusiasm - all things that I am more than willing to provide while acting as a teacher. As a teacher and educator, I am to be enthusiastic, resourceful, use active learning, make students think and do, be generous with feedback and be adaptable to circumstances.

 

I challenge and encourage students to use their analytics thinking to direct, and not just apply management tools. My ultimate goal is to create an environment where every student can be an active participant in achieving as deep of an understanding of the course material as he or she wants, and more importantly, one that fosters the students’ abilities to apply that understanding beyond the scope of the course. As a teacher, I follow the constructive alignment approach (Biggs and Tang 2011). I set my courses clear learning goals and outcomes, prepare activities to achieve these, and design assessments that help me ascertain what the students have learnt.

 

When I took over the leadership of 345SAM Project Management part-time course at CU, I noticed that many of my students presented a rather surface-oriented approach to learning. This seriously made me reflect on ways to make my sessions exciting and productive (Gibbs et al. 1986) with the aim of the students to become at least interested in the subject quickly. Therefore, I changed some formative assessment methods (Brown 2001; QAA 2013), reviewed and altered questions for short quizzes (Nilson 2007), and adopted hands-on activities that illustrated various aspects of project management. I aimed to encourage the in-depth approach to learning where the emphasis is on the subject’s application and critical thinking, rather than on acquiring facts and memorisation. I tried to combine the theoretical ideas to the everyday experiences of my part-time students. Consequently, learning became more engaging and meaningful, and student interest improved significantly.

 

I believe in active learning (Lea 2015), “involving students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing” (Bonwell and Eison 1991: iii). Such an approach is essential as students get to work and ask questions, instead of me purely lecturing and telling them about specific topics. I have noticed that students are more imaginative and engaged if given tasks and challenges of varying types and levels. Asking students to prepare short presentations, group work and minor in-class activities based on essential themes have been very fruitful so far. The active learning allows my students to engage the material and by doing so learn more than when being passive recipients of transmitted knowledge (Cross 1987). At the same time learning from each other and minimise their dependence on the teacher and ‘spoon-feeding’.

 

In teaching, I try to ask relatable questions and introduce activities geared toward reflective learning (Moon 2004; Schön 1991) and learning by practical application (Kolb 1984). When teaching Project Management students, I introduce them to the concept of project management by asking them to reproduce an Athens tube map to six times its original size. I put students into groups and give them a section of the map to reproduce using various available resources (flipchart, pens, rulers, etc.). Students have to organise themselves within the resource and time constraints, and also answer to changing the context of the project due to “unexpected events” (i.e. fire alarm, earthquake) that occur as the project progresses. This is an activity always goes wrong and perhaps because of that sticks in the minds of my students for all the right reasons. It not only teaches them the importance of various aspects of project management and gives an excellent introduction to the rest of the module, but also lets them develop their communication and organisations skills. From student feedback, it was apparent that students had enjoyed the project aspect of the activity, some saying that it “was fascinating” and “made the biggest impact on [their] learning”.

 

I use a variety of teaching strategies to ensure the material is accessible for a range of learning styles. While I primarily rely on lectures to teach about relevant management theories and concepts and their applicability to real business and organisational situations, I also incorporate seminar discussions, guest speakers, case assignments, presentations, etc. I agree with the opinions that that traditional lecture is a relatively poor pedagogical approach (Bligh 2000) especially in light of research that suggests that student concentration during lectures begins to decline after 10-15 minutes (Stuart and Rutherford 1978). Rowe (1980) suggests pausing three times for approximately three minutes each can enhance student learning. Hence, my lectures, as a rule, contain brief interactive activities, for instance, formative in-class quizzes or student-to-student interactions either as think-pair-share (see: Lyman 1981) or groups discussions. I employ group work discussions because they promote participation and communication and have been shown to lead to student learning, their retention and overall educational success (Astin 1997; Tinto 1998). Studies have also demonstrated that groups come up with more developed solutions that those of an individual student (Barkley et al. 2004). Teamwork also allows students to learn from each other, which has been proven as a more effective approach than when the information and knowledge are transmitted by the teacher only (Barkley et al. 2004). From a more practical view, group work also advances interpersonal skills (Caruso and Woolley, 2008) and problem-solving (Mannix and Neale 2005) abilities that are highly valued by employers in current times (Yorke 2004), and in that sense “enable students to become the leaders of the future” (CU 2015). Additionally, I ask students to write their learning diaries so they can debrief their perceptions of in-class activities and I can assess students’ understanding of relevant theories and course material. I use extra assessment measures such as individual papers, class participation and group activities to evaluate students’ engagement with the concepts taught in the course. Incorporating such various assessment and pedagogical approaches provide a way to accommodate the diverse learning styles and skills the students may have. In summary, all of my educational strategies are dedicated to teaching in dynamic, hands-on ways that will remain with the student long after he or she leaves my classroom.

 

 

 

 

References:

  1. Astin, A. (1993) What matters in college? Four critical years revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

  2. Barkley, E.F., Cross, K.P., and Major, C.H. (2004) Collaborative Learning Techniques: A Handbook for College Faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

  3. Biggs, J., and Tang, C. (2011) Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill and Open University Press

  4. Bligh, D.A. (2000) What’s the use of lectures. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

  5. Bonwell, C.C., and Eison, J.A. (1991) Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. 1991 ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Reports. Washington, DC: Association for the Study of Higher Education, ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education, and George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development [online] Available from <http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED336049.pdf> [2 October 2015]

  6. Brown, G. (2001) Assessment: a guide for lecturers. York: LTSN Generic Centre Assessment Series 3

  7. Caruso, H.M., and Wooley, A.W. (2008) ‘Harnessing the power of emergent interdependence to promote diverse team collaboration’. Diversity and Groups 11, 245-266

  8. Cross, P. (1987) ‘Teaching for Learning’. AAHE Bulletin 39 (8), 3-7

  9. CU (Coventry University) (2015) Coventry University Group Education Strategy 2015-2021 [online] Available from https://share.coventry.ac.uk/staff/ps/vco/Documents/Education%20Strategy%20Documents%20July%202015/Education%20Strategy%202015-2021%20-%20Booklet.pdf [14 December 2015]

  10. Kolb, D. (1984) Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall

  11. Lea, J. (Ed.) (2015) Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Higher Education. Engaging with the Dimensions of Practice. Maidenhead: Open University Press

  12. Lyman, F. (1981) ‘The responsive class discussion’ in Mainstreaming Digest. ed. by Anderson, A.S. College Park, MD: University of Maryland College of Education

  13. Mannix, E., and Neale, M.A. (2005) ‘What differences make a difference? The promise and reality of diverse teams in organizations’. Psychological Science in the Public Interest 6 (2), 31-55

  14. Moon, J. (2004) A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge

  15. QAA (Quality Assurance Agency) (2013) UK Quality Code for Higher Education - Chapter B6: Assessment of students and the recognition of prior learning [online] Available from <http://www.qaa.ac.uk/en/Publications/Pages/Quality-Code-Chapter-B6.aspx#.Vm8tKBqLSu4> [2 October 2015]

  16. Ramsden, P. (1992) Learning to Teach in Higher Education. Kent: Routledge

  17. Rowe, M.B. (1980) ‘Pausing principles and their effects on reasoning in science’ in Teaching the sciences. New Directions for Community Colleges. ed. by Brawer, F.B. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

  18. Schön, D. (1991) The Reflective Practitioner. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd

  19. Stuart, J., and Rutherford, R.J. (1978) ‘Medical student concentration during lectures’. The Lancet, 514-516

  20. Tinto, V. (1987) Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

  21. Yorke, M. (2004) ‘Employability in the undergraduate curriculum: some students’ perspectives’. European Journal of Education 39, 409-427