As a teacher, my overarching goal I have is to enable all of my students to reach their full potential to learn the subject of that particular course. How to achieve that, of course, can be a struggle without adequate preparation. The learning process is not just about a teacher passing down his or her knowledge to their students through lectures. While the lecture is needed, it is only one method of teaching. What I have learned through the various classes I have taught is a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective as students learn in different ways. I also realize my students have diverse reasons for taking the course or going to college. I keep these students’ motivations in mind while developing my lessons to help students in their future careers.
The lessons I have learned from the various reasons my students attend college is the need to keep the coursework relevant to them. I try to answer students’ concerns about why a particular topic is important for them to understand, no matter their career or life goals. To better prepare students in my classes, I involve them in presenting information to fellow students, much like they might do in their future careers in presenting information to co-workers. Activities, especially group activities, are particularly relevant, as students need to get used to working with others, even those they might not want to work with. I also have my students write at least a couple of short essays throughout the semester as a means of improving their writing skills. For seminar courses, I have students take turns leading discussions. I have found giving students more responsibility increases their engagement in the material, as they want to share their insights with their classmates. Utilizing the latest technological resources is crucial to teaching as, one, it helps students learn material in a new manner, and two, and they are able to navigate different technological platforms, which will be an asset as they seek employment.
The challenges of teaching students from diverse backgrounds can be immense, but two traits I have noticed is beneficial for all teachers to have, including myself, is compassion and patience. Most students want to do well. However, work and/or family obligations can often interfere with proper study habits. Classwork is low on those students’ list of priorities and a great instructor/mentor has to acknowledge the circumstances their students face. In the end, though, a teacher still has to give grades students have earned. Unfortunately, not all students will do well, but one part of my teaching philosophy I strive to keep is if a student tries, they deserve an opportunity to showcase their understanding of the coursework.
Regarding teaching political science, one of my goals is getting students to better understand how the political process works nationally, at a state level, and locally, and also on an international level. Part of that is instilling in students the notion they have a stake in how government operates and how they can be informed citizens as they vote, and how their own political efforts can effect change in their communities.
Jason M. Adkins