28 Jun 2024

Teaching Philosophy

Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC) has established a Cultural Fluency Teaching Academy (Academy) for faculty to participate in a 9-month (3 quarters) program to deepen their understanding of best practices in culturally responsive pedagogy. Participating faculty will be supported in using qualitative and quantitative research to evaluate the impact of changes on student retention and success,with a specific focus on diverse and traditionally underserved student populations. This is the teaching philosophy statement I wrote as part of my application to participate.

My teaching philosophy has been shaped through 18 years of teaching different disciplines and diverse communities of students. At its core, I believe learning should be goal-oriented, accessible to all, measurable through assessment, and fun.

After graduating from college with a B.S. in Biochemistry in 2006, I began teaching Organic Chemistry laboratory courses to undergraduates. Organic Chemistry is notorious for being people’s least favorite class, so I did my best to make the laboratory welcoming and to help students learn from mistakes without fear of failure. I received positive student feedback on my evaluations, and I thought I was a great teacher. However, I had no idea what I was doing, because I had no formal training education. When I started graduate school in 2012, I took a one-day workshop on pedagogy, but it didn’t have much impact on my teaching style.

In 2016, I attended a two-day Instructor Training workshop with the non-profit organization Software Carpentry, and it had a profound impact on my teaching philosophy. I learned how to write learner profiles to describe my prospective students. I learned the difference between formative and summative assessments and how to effectively incorporate both into a course. I learned how to use backward-design techniques to write the exam first and then write the lessons to ensure that the lessons were goal-oriented and covered the relevant material. I also learned how to recognize different factors that can motivate or demotivate students to engage with the material and learn. For the next seven years, I applied this newfound knowledge as I taught computational biology workshops to graduate students, and I gained confidence in my ability to teach and assess the progress of students.

Since joining the faculty at LTCC in 2023, I have taught Chemistry and Biology laboratory and lecture classes for science majors and non-majors. In the fall, I will teach a dual-credit Chemistry course at South Lake Tahoe High School. I enjoy lecturing, but I have a slight preference for teaching laboratory courses because of the emphasis on hands-on activities and the increased dialog between students. While performing experiments in pairs, students have to follow instructions and draw conclusions. They also have free time to bond over discussions of school and life. I learn a lot about the students in laboratory courses because I spend more time listening than lecturing. I learn about their majors, workload, career paths, home lives, fears, and dreams. I know how to adapt the course content to make it more relevant and interesting based on student background and interest; however, I don’t know how to adjust my grading practices to accommodate student abilities and needs to make education equitable.

During the Cultural Fluency Teaching Academy (CFTA), I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the traditionally underserved student populations at LTCC to improve my lesson design and assessment to improve student retention and success. I believe there is a wealth of information about cultural fluency that I don’t know, but I look forward to learning from the organizers and my peers so that I can continue to grow as a professional educator and better serve the student population at LTCC and beyond.

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