Real learning occurs when students are led through a guided discovery process rather than just being told what to do. For such learning to occur, my role is to find meaningful ways to engage learners in the education process. To do so, I create situations that require learners to perform and to receive feedback on their performance, and give them opportunities to adjust or change their behavior and improve their achievement level. I have found that learner engagement, satisfaction, knowledge retention, and competency achievement are significantly higher when I actively involve students and guide them through a discovery process, rather than simply give them the answers. My initiative to inspire students and empathize with them is crucial to their development of internal motivation, their engagement with the learning process in and beyond the classroom, and their ability to learn independently, both in school and in their vocations.
We all have opinions about particular subjects, whether or not we are knowledgeable of them. What we may not realize is that many of our beliefs may be deep-seated, and we may not even be aware of how we appropriated them. Ask anyone on the street about the meaning of life, the existence of God, and contentious social issues, and you will find they all have an opinion. Whether or not they are well-informed and cognizant of the facts regarding that issue, their opinions are readily forthcoming. This provoked me to question how much of our thinking is deeply rooted and stored in the unconscious mind, ready to be foisted on our hearers.
In the same way, our beliefs, values, understanding of students, and concepts of teaching and learning have come from many sources and influences. They form the basis of our personal teaching philosophies. That is why, as educators, we must rigorously reflect on our past experiences, even from childhood; evaluate them carefully; and finally articulate the values and beliefs we have formed about teaching and learning.
Teaching is challenging at all levels: cognitive, emotional, social, and personal. In the absence of clarity, our teaching will be aimlessly drifting with students if they lose interest. We can gain clarity of our thoughts and understanding of our purpose by clearly stating our teaching approaches. By articulating them, we are explicitly creating a frame of mind conducive to helping our students instead of just giving our spiel and making no real impact on their learning.
I have been honored with multiple awards for teaching, including the highly prestigious Wang Family Excellence Award from the California State University System, the Provost’s Award from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, the Northrop Grumman Award for Excellence in Teaching, the ASEE Pacific Southwest Award, and the Rodes Professorship Award from Kettering University. In addition, my TEDx talk, “Becoming a Better Teacher,” has been ranked among the top five talks featuring inspiring educators. These recognitions are a testament to my student-centered approach and ability to inspire others through my teaching.