In drawing up my teaching philosophy, I found that reflecting on my own learning experiences was the best approach. As a student, teachers I’ve enjoyed and learned from were interested in and excited about the subject, weren’t afraid or unable to explain complex aspects or concepts, and made the material relevant and practically applicable to me as a student.
My approach to teaching has been largely influenced by these role models. I view myself mainly as a facilitator of learning, and not as an expert who delivers information to students – I mainly use constructivist approaches to teaching, such as problem-based learning, cooperative learning and guided instruction. When planning a lesson, I am always conscious of different learning styles, what the students have already learned and what they will need to learn in the future. I am also a proponent of the Socratic method, and use it regularly in classes focused on professional issues and research literacy. I encourage academic debate, and indeed dissent in my classes, as I am a firm believer it helps to prepare students for real-life interactions. I am a supporter of free speech, and logical debate…not argument.
Personal contact with students is a key aspect to my approach as a facilitator. Having fun is another key aspect, and I regularly incorporate games into lessons. My goal is to encourage understanding of the fundamental concepts, which in turn can be applied to all aspects of prehospital care delivery. Therefore I encourage my students to establish a solid foundation in anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology. If they require extra material or sessions to achieve this, then I am more than happy to facilitate. Linking these subjects to clinical practice is again an essential aspect of my teaching strategy.
I aim to encourage my students to provide reasoned and logical approaches to delivering logical arguments. This is again delivered through facilitation, and by asking my favourite questions in small group settings…”Why” and “What else?”. Critical thinking and critical reasoning skills are essential to clinical practice, and by encouraging students to research and formulate logical arguments, I aim to help them to develop those skills and hone them during their clinical careers.
I regularly ask for feedback, both anonymously via evaluation forms and in-person from students. I have also received positive feedback on both my classroom and distance teaching abilities, and this has spurred me to further refine my teaching skills.
Two quotes oft attributed to Albert Einstein resonate with me as an educator:
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.
Whether he said these things or not is irrelevant in my opinion. The concept behind them is something I strongly believe in – help students to see why they should learn something, and in turn be able to explain it simply to them. Nothing is too difficult…concepts that are hard to learn can be broken down into smaller, easy to learn concepts.
The main thing that I love to see as an educator, and I fully support in whatever way I can, is to see current and former students express an interest in becoming educators themselves. The journey to becoming an educator requires facilitation, and I was lucky enough to have some amazing mentors during my development as an educator. I am now mentoring a number of my former students in their journeys to become educators. I have previously been nominated by my students for several prehospital educator awards, including the NAEMSE EMS Educator the Year Award.