My Teaching Philosophy

This course has helped me to develop and refine my personal teaching philosophy, particularly as it relates to online teaching. My philosophy of teaching has been based on three fundamental components: clear expectations, integrated course design and active learning. This course has helped me support and develop these ideas, but has also encouraged me to add community and reflection to those fundamental components. In the relatively small classrooms, in which I teach, community has come about naturally and readily. In the online environment, this aspect, which is equally important as my previous components needs to be deliberately developed. I have also learned that by adding more metacognative experiences for the students is necessary for their growth as learners.

I believe that clear expectations are the cornerstone of any well designed course. Students that clearly understand what is required of them and the direction of the course can focus on learning the material, rather than navigating through the course. As Stewart (2008) states “clear rules and policies coupled with the incentive to become familiar with them, prompt instructor feedback via a variety of means, a sense of community, and a variety of lesson and assessment types are essential to student success in the online classroom.’ Clarity is important for all students, but particularly for non-traditional students and English Language Learners that already face additional barriers to success in online courses (Muilenburg and Berge 2005).

Having clear expectations and policies requires thoughtful instructional design. I think that Backwards Design promotes thoughtful course design and helps me to create meaningful assessments and activities that lead to mastery of the final assessment (Wiggins and McTighe 2005). While a clear instructional design is the goal of my teaching, I believe that it should also have some level of built in flexibility, when topics need further development or revisiting. Flexibility should be built around frequent formative assessment so misunderstandings can be detected and clarified early on. Fink’s (2013) model of integrated course design suggests the three integrated components of learning goals, teaching and learning activities and feedback and assessment. His model allows for flexibility and proposes a model that is more cyclical than linear. This model focuses on learning and teaching as a continuously evolving process, much like the scientific method and adopts a “growth mindset’ rather than a “fixed mindset’ (Dweck 2013).

Overall, my teaching style can be considered  primarily constructivist and relies heavily on inquiry based understanding. For both face to face and online classrooms I feel that deeper understanding of the material, especially within the context of Science, requires students to construct their own meaning through experimentation and observation. The CoI (Community of Inquiry) exemplifies this theory and I think it works particularly well with Science (Swan, Garrison, and  Richardson 2009). Creating authentic assessments and activities that allow online students to experience CoI’s is a challenge, but with the tools and skills I have learnt in this course and other ONID courses, I believe it can be successful.

Works Cited

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York: Random House

Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Muilenburg, L. Y., & Berge, Z. L. (2005). Student barriers to online learning: A factor analytic study. Distance Education, 26(1), 29—48. doi:10.1080/01587910500081269

Swan, K., Garrison, D. R. & Richardson, J. C. (2009). A constructivist approach to online learning: the Community of Inquiry framework. In Payne, C. R. (Ed.) Information Technology and Constructivism in Higher Education: Progressive Learning Frameworks. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 43-57.

Wiggins, G. P., & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design (Expanded 2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

7 thoughts on “My Teaching Philosophy

  1. Bob

    clear expectations
    integrated course design
    active learning

    I love these categories and I struggle a little with what you mean by them too (in a good way). Clear expectations is evidently near and dear to your heart as you explain yourself well. It is likewise important to me as a workplace supervisor. I cannot get a performance if I have not shared my expectations. While I know that “integrated course design” is a theme we should be completely conversant here at the end of the course, alas, I still struggle with it. I like your nutshell definition. I think you touch on your meaning of “active learning” in your last paragraph and I think you touch on “community” as well — this in your reference to community of learning. Alas, I wish you would have unpacked this more since it is a new notion for me. Even a link to Wikipedia (gasp) would have helped me (I Googled it, I know how plebeian of me) it is a notion with solid lineage as both John Dewey and C.S Pierce are credited. What does active learning look like in your classroom? What evidence do you have for its’ success? Where you have just added community to your list of informing concepts you will be speculating perhaps as to how to build it. Though I’d imagine you can catch glimpses of it in your experience — how did you achieve it at those moments? Finally, “reflection” I suspect you mean learners self-reflection. Why is that valuable? How do you achieve it in your own process? How might that transfer to the learners around you? I really encourage you to keep digging. I encourage you to trust yourself and your experience — this is after all your personal philosophy.

  2. Bob

    Ok, weird the term “community of learning” failed to penetrate my fog, but, when I scrolled down the Wikipedia article and saw the diagram I recognized the content from our course — does that constitute a visual learning style? Got it now.

  3. lsowa


    Like Bob, I would suspect that you are quite good at clearly defining your expectations based upon the clarity of your writing. As I found out this semester teaching a remedial algebra course for the first time, familiarity with your student population helps the instructor define those expectations. In this course, just as many students needed instruction on how to be a student as much as how to factor polynomials. Next time around, I will be extremely clear about my expectations right up front (e.g. no, you can not miss an exam without notifying me with a valid excuse and come in 3 days later expecting to take the exam, etc.)

    The point you bring up from Swan is an important one: providing incentive for students to become familiar with expectations. This is part of teaching students how to be good students, and depending on the level of the course it could be part of our direct instruction. Softening a bit from my gut reaction (they should know this by now!) and providing a bit of a boost up front may go a long way, and will make it easier to stick to expectations (for the instructor and students) when questions arise later on.

    Congratulations on finishing the assignments for this course! And best of luck in the future. I’ll be curious about whether you get to implement your ecosystem project in an online course, and how it goes!


  4. Owen

    Hi Jenny,

    I agree with the comments of your peers. You clearly address how one might approach teaching and I like your categories as well. As Bob mentions, I’d also suggest you thinking a bit more on why we teach and how we learn. And how do the answers to these questions inform your philosophy? This isn’t criticism – you’re response is strong. This is encouragement. You might come back to this after some time.
    I came back to a statement of my personal philosophy I’d written a couple of years after the fact and was amazed at how much my philosophy had changed, and surprised at how clearly I exposed some foundations I still believe in.

    Nicely done.


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