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Teaching in 10 Words

Mon Sep 25, 2023 at 07:30 AM

From Award-Winning OU Faculty

Expressing your teaching philosophy in 10 words can be a short but powerful way to reflect on your teaching values and practices. We asked the recipients of Oakland University’s 2022 Teaching Awards to share their Teaching in 10 Words, plus a little more on those 10 words. Learn more about the awards, which are coordinated through the Senate Committee on Teaching and Learning.

The art of asking questions: teaching science as a dialogue

Taras Oleksyk, Teaching Excellence Award

My background as an immigrant deeply influences my teaching approach, which centers on "the art of asking questions." I view learning as discipline analogous to learning a language; first comes vocabulary, then sentences, and finally dialogue. My class revolves around the scientific method aiming to separate objective reality from subjective bias. To stimulate critical thinking, I require students to participate in online Q&A forums. These platforms serve as collaborative spaces where questions fuel intellectual discussions. Answering all these questions myself is time-consuming, but it is also my way of deepening my own understanding. Indeed, nothing has taught me more about my subject than answering questions from my students. While the Q&A method has ancient roots, tracing back to the Greeks, I believe it remains the most effective way to encourage active participation and cultivate a classroom culture that celebrates diversity of thought and values each student's contributions.

Students can do hard things: building critical thinking through scaffolding

Holly Greiner-Hallman, Excellence in Teaching Award

Most of us want our students to go beyond the memorization of rote facts and into the realm of analyzing and evaluating ideas using critical thinking. Whether I am teaching Biology I or the senior capstone course, my students are expected to demonstrate scientific thinking and problem-solving skills. To push them beyond “flashcard-style” studying, I employ scaffolding: a step-wise process that moves students toward greater independence in learning. My particular brand of scaffolding involves three main components: 1.) clarity and transparency, 2.) opportunities for productive risk and failure, and 3.) modeling. When students are offered this bridge, they become less resistant to more challenging forms of thinking because it reduces anxiety, mentally prepares them for challenging concepts, and creates a warm classroom environment.

Aiming to understand why

Helena Riha, Online Teaching Excellence Award

I am originally from Slovakia, having lived there until the age of 8 and then in Oklahoma until 18, including study in France at 17. After that, I lived in Taipei and Beijing for many years and in several areas of the U.S. for college and graduate school. I became interested in the languages, people, and cultures of these places and wanted to figure out why they had the quirky characteristics I observed, including similarities and differences among them. I now teach in two disciplines, linguistics and international studies, and cover a variety of courses. I continue to pursue the understanding of why. I focus students’ attention on what and how, certainly, but we do not stop there. We probe deeper to struggle with why. Why often proves to be the most vexing question, one that takes an open mind and knowledge of the subject area to begin to comprehend.

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