Teaching Philosophy (Condensed Version)
I believe that the act of ‘teaching’ transcends the specificities of what, where and whom is being taught and that effective teaching involves finding a style of communication that resonates with students. While many good teachers are born with an innate ability to understand this process, teaching skills can be developed and honed over time through practice, experimentation and experience. Thus, I consider myself fortunate to have begun teaching in academic and non-academic settings early in life, beginning as a sports instructor at the age of 13 and as an undergraduate teaching assistant at the age of 21. Since 2002, I have accumulated a rich and diverse set of experiences in the classroom. I have worked in Canada and Sweden as a course instructor, lecturer and teaching assistant in five different departments. To date, I have spent over 275 hours in the classroom and while teaching seventeen courses at the graduate and undergraduate level. These courses range from urban, economic and labour geography to creative regional strategies, research methods and regional economic development. During this time I have designed courses, delivered lectures, facilitated seminars and evaluated participation, assignments and exams. I have also coordinated teaching assistants and supervised graduate and undergraduate students. These opportunities have encouraged me to learn and adapt to new material, institutional systems and learning styles while reflecting on and developing effective teaching practices.
My teaching philosophy encompasses a desire to bridge the gap between theory and practice, to encourage critical and independent thought, to continuously send, receive and adapt to feedback and to incorporate new teaching methods that resonate with the diverse learning styles and evolving needs of contemporary students. This philosophy is operationalized in a number of ways. While running any course, I believe it is imperative to be cognizant of the individual and collective needs and goals of the students. Although some instructors like to think that their courses should be top priority, in reality, students are inundated with content and assignments from several courses and may be distracted by the demands of part-time jobs and other commitments. As a result, keeping students actively engaged is becoming more difficult. In my experience the best way to activate students is by offering lectures that emphasize visual and narrative elements and feature opportunities for group discussions and real-time feedback about how well the material is being understood. It is also important to supplement course content, which typically consists of factual and conceptual knowledge, with other forms of knowledge related to learning behaviours. This can be done by dedicating lecture time to using tools such as the VARK survey, for example, to get students to assess and think about their learning styles and to discuss and develop study skills and personalized learning strategies. With respect to assignments, linking course material to the real world interests and experiences of students has proven effective. Specific examples include asking students to write a commodity chain analysis about their new iPhone and to use the labour geography literature to critique their own employment experiences.
As a teacher my goal is to continue to expand the range of topics I can successfully teach at both the undergraduate and graduate level. I find teaching foundational courses that expose students to seminal theories, thinkers and cases appealing because they give me the opportunity to ‘turn students on’ to the material for the first time. I also enjoy teaching advanced courses which nuance core concepts and provide opportunities to engage in stimulating discussions. In the future I also look forward to developing new courses that employ elements of my own research. In my experience, music for example, can be used as an illustrative case to explore the evolving nature of contemporary cities and how digital technologies are reshaping the ways in which people use space to live, work and communicate.
I feel strongly that teaching skills and philosophies can always be reflected upon, shared and improved. Thus, throughout my academic career I have sought out and participated in formal and informal learning and training events. In the fall of 2013, for example, I completed a five week intensive ‘academic teacher training’ course at Uppsala University.