academic portfolio & musings of a PhDad on movies, fatherhood, social justice, and everything in between
A Word on Empowerment
If you’ve read all of the other content in my Teaching Portfolio, then I’m hopeful that my emphasis on empowerment came through. I cannot say enough about my passion for empowering students to take responsibility for their own education. Empowerment can mean a lot of different things to different people, so allow me to try and explain what I mean when I use the term.
Within the context of the classroom, empowerment means treating students as collaborators in the active process of teaching and learning. It means helping them advance their understanding of how they learn through opportunities for reflection and action. It means encouraging them to take risks as learners and pursue original ideas. It means always being open to learning new things. It means treating every single one of them with the respect they inherently deserve and extending that respect to every single one of the ideas they express.
On the last day of the semester, one student – a senior – expressed that my class was the first class that felt like a real college class as opposed to “High School 2.0.” She said she felt pushed to learn and think in creative ways that were very positive and felt natural and safe. She also pointed out how I never told anyone that they were wrong during class discussions but instead tried to understand where they were coming from and guide the discussions accordingly.
Too many personal conversations between instructors are characterized by disbelief in the students’ lack of understanding. In these situations, there’s likely to be a disconnect between what the instructor thinks they’re communicating and how the students actually receive it. But I wonder how often those educators try to investigate the source of the disconnect or come up with creative solutions in close collaboration with those very students? Those students are, after all, the biggest stakeholders in the results of that conversation. Why not have them be a part of it?
My experience in the classroom, albeit limited, has me wholeheartedly convinced that empowerment is inextricably linked to learning experiences that are successful and positive for both the instructor and the students. Everyone grows from the process. And I cannot wait to see what my future students will teach me next. Thank you for reading.