My teaching philosophy and practice have been greatly influenced by learning environments where adult education, intercultural, participatory and feminist approaches and principles are embraced. I believe in finding ways to engage students in the classroom and facilitate ways for them to “own” their learning. As a classroom leader, I provide space for students to work in small groups and participate through meaningful discussions or workshop-like activities with each other. My teaching style assumes that everyone comes to the classroom with some level of experience and knowledge. It is my belief that opinion and personal perspective, sometimes a starting point for young or new students, also can initiate enthusiastic discussion that can lead to building a desire to learn more, while developing critical thinking skills. My teaching practice is guided by the mantra “start where people are at.” The latter is an approach that I embraced while working with students who were involved in World University of Canada’s (WUSC) campus-based international development programs, most especially with the Student Refugee Program. The issues we dealt with commonly evoked value-based considerations, were ethics embracing, and involved an understanding of global inequities, economic and other privilege which, by necessity, incorporated cross-cultural and gender perspectives.
Reflexivity is a powerful learning tool. I believe that it is important to create opportunities for students’ to learn the value of critical self-examination and reflection. To this end, I am aware of the need to provide students with a safe place to develop their ability to test and question their own ideas, thoughts and belief systems. In a similar way, I strive to create a comfortable environment where students can engage in friendly debate, embrace difference and learn about the opportunities (and challenges) that are available when diverse perspectives are voiced. Always aware that different learning and communication styles are at play, I incorporate a variety of pedagogical tools in my classroom, and am motivated to learn new ones to increase my effectiveness. I strongly support using “the field” as an important learning tool. From my early university days, I remember the enthusiasm with which I participated in my first geography field school. Whether we were learning field techniques that were later incorporated into our research assignments, or having discussions that related to issues we faced in the field, I became an engaged learner through the force of that learning environment. A lifelong learner myself, I eagerly look for and become familiar with how to use new educational tools that will move students to find practical and personal meaning from their academic interests and goals.