I’ve had the privilege of teaching computer-related courses at MacEwan University for over thirty years, on topics including hardware, operating systems, applications and networking. My experience has led me to believe in three major instructional factors for success in the classroom: a hands-on approach, mastery learning, and high expectations in the classroom. These tenets create the foundation of my teaching philosophy.
Students learn by doing. I lecture to cover new topics or clarify difficult concepts, but I realized a few years ago that students in my courses want to start working with the software as quickly as possible. The bulk of my courses now consist of hands-on activities and much of the class time is given over to the students to complete them. The activities follow a progression from small simulations that teach concepts and skills, to intermediate projects that test whether the concepts and skills have been learned, to capstone assignments in which students apply their learning to larger, more complex problems. Individual instruction is important, so while students are working on the hands-on activities I act more as a facilitator, circling the classroom, providing just-in-time learning to students with questions. I believe that hands-on learning experiences stick with the learner long after the lecture notes have been discarded.
I incorporate mastery learning into many of the course assignments. Students can submit their work, then review their grade, correct their mistakes and resubmit in order to improve their grade. For some assignments they can do this multiple times to increase their learning and raise their marks. Students refine their skills as they improve their grades: a win win.
High Expectations in the Classroom
Expectations in the classroom are a two-way street. I have high expectations of my students, in terms of both academics and behaviour. Students also have expectations of me as their instructor. I try to be clear at the start of the course about all of the expectations.
I expect students to produce quality work as a result of their own, individual effort. They must adhere to due dates. They must practice effective communication, both face-to-face and through email, using proper etiquette for each. I expect students to respect their peers, respect themselves, and respect the University. My commitment to high expectations sets a tone that we can all achieve a high level of excellence together.
I commit to knowing the subject matter and I come prepared for every class. If a student stumps me with a question I admit I don’t know the answer and then I come up with a solution at my earliest opportunity. I set a culture of respect in the classroom beginning with me respecting the students and their time: I model the use of please and thank-you and I’m quick to admit when I have made a mistake. When there is conflict, I take responsibility for my words and actions, apologize, and move on.
I have a love of technology and a passion for education. Finding new and exciting ways to pair the two is energizing and fulfilling. I’m always looking for ways to improve my courses and enhance my students’ experience using technology and new media.