Education is one of the few aspects of life where the results can be, quite literally, life-transforming and life-long. Therefore, it is important enough to devote one’s life to it and to devote serious thought and reflection to one’s practice. In working as an academic for the last 20 years, my teaching philosophy has evolved considerably to align with experience I have gained from educating varied populations of students (e.g. school students, undergraduate, postgraduate Masters and PhD students, online programmes, education consultancy-clients, Faculty, evening degree students, overseas students and teachers). In addition, I have taught across an unusually broad range of academic faculties -Science, Engineering and Medicine – each with their own norms and traditions. Teaching well is my core professional passion. I am an excellent communicator and, for me, the greatest professional pleasure is the experience of students engaging with their learning and challenging their pre-existing assumptions. Students must understand and enjoy what they are learning, become hungry for more knowledge, and feel comfortable and secure in the classroom environment. I see myself as their guide and companion on their individual learning journey. Intentionally, I use constructivist teaching methods where students are actively involved in the learning process and in knowledge construction as opposed to being passive receivers of information. I feel that this is especially important in Science and Technology disciplines where today’s theory or dogma can always be overturned tomorrow by new experiments or approaches. Teaching for me is not just chalk and talk and I am not the seer on the stage. I aim to actively facilitate learning through use of diverse classroom assessment techniques and authentic tasks as means to assess learning, to challenge students to engage their curiosity and also to facilitate group work in the classroom. I believe learning should be fun and varied and, through my work on learning styles and my keen interest in multiple intelligences, I always feel teaching and teaching style are not static variables but should be tailored to the needs of each student.
Students learn in varied ways and, to reach every student in the classroom, a diverse range of teaching methodologies must be explored and employed. The use of learning technology in the classroom has, over the years, added a significant new dimension to my teaching practice. For example, it has enabled me to extend learning beyond the traditional classroom. In a virtual learning environment (VLE), each course can be designed to contain tools which students can explore and learn to like. Most students are “digital natives” and technology is very much part of every aspect of their day-to-day lives so use of learning technology often chimes well with their wider lifestyle. For example, VLEs can contain an e-library, assignments can be stored, learning resources can be added, students can contribute through involvement in fora such as discussion boards. My experience has been that students like to ask questions and share views with me and fellow students through discussion boards; use of blogs has also given me insights into student learning and e-portfolios have allowed me to work with students in the development, reflection and documentation of their learning journey. This work began with undergraduate students doing work placements where a learning log was required. I later applied it to postgraduate Structured PhD students who used the e-portfolio to store assignments safely, communicate with supervisors, record meetings, document learning and produce timelines. I am a reflective practitioner and have adopted action research methodology throughout my teaching career. I encourage students to reflect on their learning through the use of a reflective journal and I have used these journals/blogs to understand better my students’ learning experiences. This, in turn, has strongly influenced my teaching and has very much shaped the evolution of my interest in the potential of learning technologies.
On the curriculum development side, I have written courses, module descriptors, learning outcomes and assessment methodologies with a view to always support and facilitate the active construction of new learning. I developed a Masters in Science Education (Biology), a certificate and diploma in Teaching Science to Primary School teachers and, as curriculum development manager in my prior position in Ireland, I developed modules for a new government-funded Structured PhD program. I have presented my education work at education conferences in many European countries (e.g. EduLearn) and I have been invited to speak at many conferences, deliver workshops and to influence and challenge curriculum design and assessment in areas such as development and implementation of e-portfolios.
In short, I am passionate about the interplay between teaching and learning in all its many facets. At every opportunity I have striven to upskill and develop my teaching practice and to contribute to the Scholarship of Teaching wherever possible. I want to stimulate active learning and to tailor my teaching to the varied learning styles of students. As part of a community of scholars, I also strive to share insights and innovations with academic peers in formats ranging from classroom workshops to academic conferences and publication. Education is important and I have had a fascinating educational journey which I think has given me a unique and individual perspective.