I believe students learn best when they are processing information by application rather than ingestion. For that reason, hands-on and experiential learning are critical to my teaching approach and hallmarks of my classroom.
In both big lecture classes and intimate seminars, I build my instruction around an engage-study-activate model in which I draw students into the material through a compelling anecdote or current event discussion before segueing into the lesson itself. I then lead the class in an engaging activity that solidifies the lesson.
The lessons themselves are based on a convergence of information, interaction and insight. The information itself is the external material that provides the foundation of our discourse, the interaction underscores the importance of a classroom environment that inspires two-way engagement and the insight acknowledges the contextual knowledge that results. I believe the best learning occurs at the nexus between the three.
My teaching style is energetic, hands-on and personalized, and I take care to clearly show students how what they’re learning is relevant, how they might use it and, hopefully, how to enjoy themselves while they’re at it. My lesson plans tend to be scenario-based, interactive and visual so students can fully immerse themselves in the material. Thoughtful discussion is a pillar of my classroom—as is honest feedback—and I try to make the environment one in which the student is able to take ownership of his or her learning process.
I’ve found that the most meaningful learning occurs when students figure things out themselves rather than being told exactly what to do and how to do it. I believe this helps develop one of the most fundamental skills that educators can teach—critical thinking. But, of course, that process must be carefully guided. It is essential that I provide the tools students need to succeed, which means delivering thorough and methodical instruction, setting clear parameters and giving frequent and constructive feedback. Through this approach, students not only learn the particulars of the class I’m teaching, they build a solid foundation for future learning.