My teaching philosophy is based upon the higher education literature, which emphasizes the importance of creating an engaged course environment. An engaged course environment is one in which both teacher and students are highly activated in the course, with all individuals reinforcing each other’s passion and enthusiasm for the subject. In an engaged course environment, I am better able to incite students’ critical thinking skills, foster lifelong learning, and assist students with transferring their learning to practice. To create an engaged environment, I implement practices based on the nature of scholarship along with evidence from higher education research. Specifically, I (a) practice what I preach, and thus bring my own research on management education to the forefront by being a leader in the course; (b) use key learning objectives to frame each class; and (c) encourage an evidence-based approach to management.
Instructor as a Leader
First, I employ my own research by using leadership theories to guide students towards achieving goals. In this view, I regard the classroom as a sort of quasi-organization with the professor as a leader and students as followers. Here, I use principles of transformational and authentic leadership in my teaching practices in order to guide, structure, and facilitate relationships in the course. For instance, I display excitement about the course content and use light humor in my interactions with students because of the premise that emotions can be contagious. I also encourage open communication with students both in and out of the course, and thus show an interest in their personal development. For instance, outside of class, I can often be found having lively conversations with students around campus. Also, many students visit me at my office for career and general guidance. I believe students feel comfortable around me because I value their input in each class, show patience when explaining topics that might be difficult to grasp, and give prompt and detailed feedback. To further show support for students, I provide them with detailed descriptions of assignments, samples of completed assignments, and marking rubrics all at an early stage in the course so that students are clear about my expectations of them. Finally, I try to inspire students towards not only achieving course objectives, but also towards a vision of how they can transfer their learning from higher education to their careers.
Class Designed Around Learning Objectives
Another teaching practice that I use is to organize each class around key learning objectives. Accordingly, for each class, my intent is to cover fundamental areas in depth rather than overload students by cramming excessive content into a class. My strategy here is three-fold. First, by covering key areas in depth, I am able to supplement my lectures with more engaging classroom activities, e.g., role-playing, debates, small-group discussions, simulations, in-class demonstrations, and more. I am fascinated when I observe students avidly participating in a given activity. A positive byproduct of using these classroom activities is that students often unknowingly engage in peer-to-peer learning. That is, students often heatedly discuss amongst themselves to accomplish a task and, when reporting out to the class, try to clarify any confusion. Second, by using the stated classroom activities, my intention is to develop intrigue in the subject matter in class so that students transfer that desire for learning out of class, and thus take control of their own learning. To reinforce learning out of the class, I augment my in-class activities with online components, e.g., downloadable lecture notes, reflection exercises, YouTube videos, etc. After developing the stated teaching methods over the past five years, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when students enjoy learning in my courses. I have had students who enjoyed my classes so much that they continued to attend my classes even after they already completed the course. Third, when building each class around key learning objectives, I encourage students to see the ‘big picture’ by beginning and ending each class with a comprehensive framework that shows how the class fits in with the course. To do so, I have shifted towards using Prezi instead of PowerPoint where applicable (see http://goo.gl/g4A8L3 for a sample undergraduate leadership workshop).
Finally, in management, like any other scientific discipline, I encourage students to develop an evidence-based mindset towards decision making and problem solving. I try to provide colorful ‘real-world’ examples along with examples from my own research to shift students towards more scientific and critical thinking. For instance, to introduce the importance of evidence to decision making, I might ask students to describe what they think about a topic. I ask them how they form their opinions on that topic, and then show the degree to which evidence supports their opinions or not. I usually follow up these types of discussions with a class activity. Here, my goal is to show students how to learn – the need to alter beliefs in light of evidence – rather than focus solely on what to learn. Therefore, for almost every class, I show students the evidence underpinning different theories and concepts so that the scientific method becomes a theme throughout the course.
In summary, my philosophy as a teacher is to engage students so that they not only learn about the course, but also so that they are equipped with a scientific mentality. In following this philosophy, I spend considerable time planning each class so that every session offers something novel, not just in terms of content, but also with respect to how the course material is delivered. I believe that teaching and research are inextricably related, and therefore it is my hope that my teaching will inspire our future scholars and practitioners to use healthy skepticism with an evidence-based approach.