I have noticed that students learn when they are engaged. My teaching has been guided by the question, “How can I engage students in their learning beyond classroom lectures?” Although my teaching is mainly based on lectures (which will always be the foundation), I have incorporated team-based activities and educational technology/social media into my teaching.
Team-Based Learning (TBL) is a learning method based on three inter-connected principles: individual accountability, peer collaboration, and instructor feedback. Beyond earning a grade for a multiple choice quiz based on individual performance, students work in teams to compete for bonus points if their team scores the highest in class for the same quiz. During team collaboration for bonus points, students teach and learn from each other. Besides individual preparation before testing (similar to traditional quizzes) and learning from peers during testing (in team collaborations), TBL primes students to want to hear the instructor’s explanation after testing. This is a rare learning dynamic I only find consistently during a TBL process. I learned about this teaching method from Dr. Michael Sweet while I was a graduate student at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin. I have presented about this learning method in 2007 at UT Annual Graduate Student Instructor Colloquium and the 2009 International Team-Based Learning Conference.
Educational technology and social media are also an integral part of my teaching practice. In addition to posting all my course materials on Blackboard, I designed a team assignment in which students in all my classes in Fall 2010 have to engage in a computer-mediated meeting(via Skype, Yahoo Messenger, etc.) to explore their team project topics. In Spring 2011, I conducted two case studies discussions on Skype with my students in COM 412 (Communication & Workplace Technologies). In all these chat sessions, I noticed how students who were usually quiet in class participated more actively online, demonstrating an increased level of student engagement and participation. A big step I have taken since coming to Chapman is to get students to share their team projects via social media for an audience beyond the classroom. Since my first semester here, many students have posted edited video projects on Youtube, under their own accounts. Here are two student projects that demonstrate what they have learned in my classes: The Disney Project (in COM 412) and The Critical Theory Project (in COM 410, Organizational Communication). As a part of the Chapman Chancellor’s Office Blended Course Initiative in Fall 2011, I am incorporating WordPress.com into my COM 412 class, asking students to blog about course content and linking to each other’s blogs within their project teams.
In sum, my teaching philosophy is driven by an interest in engaging students for learning. While I have used team-based activities and educational technologies/social media with success so far, I will continue to explore new ways to engage student learning in the future. The question of “How can I engage students in their learning beyond classroom lectures?” will continue to guide my teaching for the rest of my career.