My Teaching Philosophy

Several years ago, at a career crossroads, I took a computerized career assessment.  The results surprised me: the top two “perfect” jobs for me were academia and anthropology --- and, at the time, I didn’t even know what anthropology was! The computer assessment was SPOT ON!  I love academia and teaching, and I love anthropology.  My teaching philosophy has evolved as a result of  my passion for the basic premises of anthropology, personal experience, and education… but in a nutshell, it stands on three pillars: 
  1. Active learning which promotes and utilizes diversity.
  2. Expectations of excellence --- both of myself and my students.
  3. Nurturing real-world skills that are applicable across academic disciplines and in 'real' life.
As a cultural anthropologist, I strongly advocate for diversity and actively support and utilize the numerous benefits that individual difference brings to the learning environment.  To me diversity is not just about race, religion, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, physical abilities, political beliefs, or other ideologies --- to me, diversity also encompasses different life experiences, learning styles, epistemologies, axiologies, and worldviews.  That is why in my classroom, be it face-to-face, blended or online, I purposely facilitate a variety of activities that actively target different types of learners while also being aware of the importance of creating an inclusive, universally designed classroom. I see myself as a facilitator of the student’s learning experience; my classrooms are normally very active, sometimes noisy and have minimal formal lecturing. I also extend this inclusive mindset to assessments; for example, when I assign a cumulative project for assessment, I always provide clear concise instructions and a grading rubric, but I also give students options on the format of the assignment --- be it a paper, web page, wiki, presentation, poster, video etc. One of my students in a writing class recently told me that she found my assignments “weirdly exciting”: ‘weird’ because she never thought she would get ‘excited’ about a writing assignment.

In addition to quality instruction in an active, stimulating and bias-free learning environment, my philosophy asserts that students are entitled to an excellent education that encourages and expects personal growth. With the awareness that all people learn and interpret information differently, expectations of excellence, both of me and my students, are high, yet attainable.  To achieve this goal, I purposefully plan and revise syllabi to motivate students to confront worldviews, cultivate critical thinking and improve communication skills. I clearly state my core objectives and ensure that all class materials and assessments align back to these objectives.  My lessons and assessments are both formative and cumulative and aim high on Bloom’s Taxonomy striving for synthesis and critical evaluation of ideas.  I provide regular written and verbal feedback to students and encourage the same from them.
  

 

Bridging Cultures and expanding worldviews: Lama Thinley visits the Spring 2010 ANTH205 (People and Cultures of the World ) class.

Whether face-to-face or online, my students experience frequent and repeated opportunities to act, react, and interact with their peers, myself, community partners and global resources.  This collaborative environment incorporates diverse worldviews and facilitates “real-world” problem solving and skills.  This is evident in recent ‘Stop, Start, Continue’ feedback exercise, where students were encouraged to do group work and discuss theoretical concepts in relation to their own worldview.  Even though some of the students hated working in groups (we all do sometimes!), they definitely saw the value in moving outside their normal comfort zone and learning from their peers. These life skills are readily transferable across other disciplines and to the rest of student’s lives and careers.

This teaching philosophy has evolved with time, trial and error.  I am still learning and improving… every day.  As a life-long learner, I intend to continue learning, honing my skill and educating for a long time to come!