Dr. Niki Bray
I have a personalized, student-centered philosophy about teaching as I believe all decisions about the teaching and learning environment should be made based upon the needs of the individual student. Additionally, I see teaching and learning as a social justice issue - as a way to change the lives of those oppressed by the chains of poverty and other injustices of socioeconomic classism.
Before we can begin teaching students, I believe we must first connect with students. Students do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. I realize this can be difficult in large classes, however, it is very possible and is an absolute must at every level of education. Additionally, we must also make learning meaningful. Every learning experience that we design must begin with answering the question, “Why should students care?” When we help students to see the importance of what they are learning, we are able to increase the likelihood that students will be more engaged in their own learning.
I believe that learning environments must be conducive to learning by creating an environment that is welcoming to all and safe to learn and fail. Students must be nurtured, lifted up, edified, encouraged, and never belittled or demeaned in any way, form, or fashion. Learning is difficult and knowing that, students must be encouraged and taught how the brain learns and break old, ineffective forms of learning that have been ingrained in them since primary school. A love of learning must be cultivated in every student.
In a world where the classroom is growing more and more diverse and the technology tools available to us today more easily allows for individualization and differentiation on large scales, the potential to meet students’ needs and level the playing field is possible now more than ever. I firmly believe in meeting students where they are and providing as much scaffolding as the student needs for as long as they need it. With that, I believe mastery-based, competency-driven, cooperative, project-based, gamified, and active learning approaches, all supported by the learning sciences, are best at preparing students to excel in the real-world and in jobs that have yet to be created.
As a trained educator and instructional designer, I also believe firmly in the use of good design in the development of courses and learning experiences for students. All good design should begin with the end in mind. A good course or learning experience should be designed using the backward design model and should be support by a number of learning theories, learning sciences, and multimedia principles. I am most influenced by the constructivist paradigm and believe that learning is an active, constructive process. I believe that strategies empirically supported by learning sciences are the most powerful and impactful strategies to use in one’s classroom and are the ones I implement consistently throughout every course I design and teach and are as follows: 1) spaced practice; 2) retrieval practice; 3) elaboration; 4) interleaving; 5) concrete examples; 6) dual coding. Lastly, I work hard to adhere to Richard Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia Learning to ensure that the design of my lessons and courses do not impede the learning process by violating any of the principles and causing cognitive overload for my learners.
In conclusion, I believe a true educator leaves no stone left unturned when it comes to helping a student. You never stop learning how to be a better teacher, learn a new strategy that might help even one student, plan for the next semester, learning all you can about the content and industry in which you teach. Teaching is a tireless endeavor, yet the most incredibly rewarding profession a person could be lucky enough to be gifted!