Reflective Essay on Teaching Lucinda S. Baker

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1 Reflective Essay on Teaching Lucinda S. Baker The purpose of this essay is to summarize the contents of my teaching portfolio, and also to reflect on what I've learned and how my approach to teaching has changed since 2003, when I had my first GTA assignment. In my portfolio are the documents requested by TILT for a Graduate Teaching Certificate in College Teaching, most of which have to do with Psychology 456, the Sensation and Perception course that I taught at CSU during the summer of I've gone about the process of meeting the requirements for this certificate in reverse order for the most part, but I think that overall I've learned a lot about teaching and about myself as a teacher over the last several years. When my oldest child was three, I enrolled both of us in a parent cooperative preschool, and I began a new role as a teach-parent in the coop. This naturally led me to become a classroom volunteer in Poudre Schools. I'm in my 16 th year as a school volunteer, and I suppose those experiences contribute to my comfort in the classroom. I've also been a matriculated student for about 2 decades of my adult life, so I'm very comfortable in the undergraduate and graduate classroom setting. But I hadn't seriously considered becoming a teacher myself until about two years ago. My first college-level teaching assignment was as a GTA for a 300-level neuroanatomy course in I used to come home happy every Tuesday that semester because that was the day I got to assist in two lab sessions. I loved the material, and I really enjoyed working with the students and trying to help them manage the overwhelming amount of information for which they were

2 responsible in that course. I was sad when that assignment ended, but I assumed it was because I would no longer have weekly contact with human brain specimens, which I love. My next teaching assignment came about because my advisor didn't have funding to support me. Once again I had a GTA assignment for a course that I'd recently taken and thoroughly enjoyed, and even though it was very time consuming to conduct four recitations/week, I was sad again when the term and my teaching ended. I knew it wasn't just brains this time, but that I very much enjoy interactions with college students, and I miss that regular interaction. I also realized that even though I'm far from the age of traditional college students, I've been in those courses recently and I have a unique perspective on undergraduate education, having recently been on both the student and teacher sides of the college classroom experience. When I transferred to the Psychology Department for my Ph.D. I was expected to teach a lab course as one of the program requirements. I taught sections of the same course for four semesters, and I loved it, not only because I find the course material interesting and engaging, but also because it was very rewarding to get to know all of the students in those small lab sections and share some of my enthusiasm for sensation and perception. I realized that I had been working with students across the developmental range, starting when my own child was in preschool I volunteered with that cohort for their entire school career. The undergraduate students were the same age as my oldest child, and I found it easy to relate to them, as I'd watched their peers grow up.

3 I enrolled in GS 792 in 2007 mostly because of word of mouth praise for the course and for Frank Vattano, who was rumored to be retiring soon. I continued to teach lab courses during the term I was involved in that class, and I incorporated some of the ideas I encountered in class into my labs right away, such as frequent, short quizzes, and asking for students' feedback on the pace of the course part way through the semester. I had never been exposed to scholarship on the art of teaching before this time, but I found that my experiences from many years as a student, my experiences as a lab instructor, and the issues and ideas that were being considered in GS 792 all combined to help me form a vision of how to teach a class well. I considered the traits or styles of those teachers and professors who had influenced me most or been my best teachers, and they all were enthusiastic about the material they were presenting, and tended to teach in a story-telling manner. I continued to come home happy on my teaching days, and realized that this might be an occupation that I would find fulfilling not only because it would provide social and intellectual rewards, but also because I could potentially share a defining moment with the occasional student, as some of my teachers had done for me. I was thrilled when I was hired to teach my own course during the summer term, and I tried to apply many of the ideas I'd been exposed to during GS 792 when I was putting my course together. The intense summer schedule was a challenge, and I tried to incorporate videos, demonstrations, student presentations, and some lab activities into the schedule to combat the depleted attention spans we'd experience during those two hour classes. Of course we

4 took a break part way through each class session, but the students preferred to take a shorter break and have the class end earlier if possible. Because I enjoyed teaching that summer course so much, I came to the idea that perhaps I should seriously consider teaching as an occupation after I graduate, and at that point I investigated the Graduate Teaching Certificate program. I enrolled and attended teaching workshops during the school year, after my years of teaching during graduate school and GS 792 course were over. Because I'd already had the opportunity to design a course and develop curricular materials before I began the Teaching Certificate process, I used my materials from that course for the portfolio. It feels like I've gone about the process in a backwards direction, but it also feels like all of the steps have been related and connected, and as I finish this teaching portfolio, which summarizes my experiences, I find that I'm eager to teach again and try to improve my teaching and course design. The workshop I attended with Barbara Wallner about teaching millennials was very thought-provoking, and I know that the issues she focused on, the world this cohort has grown up in and their expectations and familiarity with computers, is something I need to consciously address when I prepare my next course. I do not like to post powerpoint slides on RamCT for students, I use them during lectures, but try to have minimal text on them, preferring to deliver relevant information verbally, with illustrations on the powerpoints, so that students must process the information and write their own notes. I explain up front that this is a conscious choice, but students want those powerpoints, and

5 they'd prefer that all major points be on the slides in text. My summer course experience led me to modify my approach right away, because one of my students was from Taiwan and struggled with many of the vocabulary terms. She asked on the first day if she could have copies of my slides, and I realized that she would find the course much more difficult without this. So I ed my powerpoints to the students each afternoon when we'd had a lecture, which was not what I had intended when I developed the course. I think one of my main teaching challenges is calibrating the amount of material and the pace at which I present it during lectures. I want to tell students as much as possible, but I think they often perceive my pace as too much, too fast. However, they are reluctant to say this when I ask for feedback, so trying to strike the right balance will be one of my main goals for the next course I teach. I found the process of compiling this portfolio enjoyable, in large part because I reread my teaching evaluations and reflected on the students and classroom experiences I've had in the past several years. I care about all of my students, and it was gratifying to see that many of them realized this and appreciated it. I found it difficult to write my teaching philosophy statement, as I haven't taught for a while or thought about teaching in that way for months now, but I know I've grown considerably in my teaching comfort and skills over these past few years. I feel like I've done a good job as a teacher so far, and I look forward to the opportunity to teach some more and work on becoming a very good teacher.

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