My philosophy of teaching is grounded in progressive and radical approaches to adult education. Progressive adult education strives to create a healthier society and equip learners with knowledge and skills to enhance their effectiveness in society (Elia & Merriam, 1995). Radical adult education seeks to utilize education to bring forth social, political, and economic changes in society (Elia & Merriam, 1995). This foundation of progressive and radical adult learning approaches is enhanced and informed by my theoretical orientations of counseling (Adlerian and Existential) and my personal experience as a first-generation college student.
Congruent with progressive and radical adult education, my teaching approach involves assuming the role of an organizer and coordinator (Elia & Merriam, 1995). I seek to guide students through learning experiences from a place of curiosity and investigation while promoting problem posing, critical reflection, and pragmatic approaches to learning. I work to connect learned content with personal reflection and experimental integration. I have the privilege of teaching individuals from many stages of adulthood, and I deeply value the opportunity to learn from students’ experiences and understand how they synthesize new content.
As a teacher, I aim to create a warm, encouraging environment where students feel inspiration and enthusiasm to learn how to help people in vulnerable places as a professional counselor. I also aim to empower students to face challenges and have the courage to be imperfect. The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler is the primary theoretical orientation of my approach to counseling and supervision and is a significant aspect of my teaching approach. I believe encouragement is not only a catalyst for growth and change but also learning. While I navigated college as an undergraduate student, the most impactful teachers and mentors in my life were those who provided encouragement. They helped me manage my feelings of inferiority in a healthy, productive way. I strive to do the same in my approach to teaching.
My approach to curriculum development begins with understanding learning goals for the course and how that learning is aligned with CACREP standards; therefore, I employ a thoughtful and thorough assessment of key performance indicators (KPIs) and student learning outcomes (SLOs) that address standards specific to the course (Haddock & Whitman, 2019). For example, if I were to teach a counseling skills course for mental health counseling students, I would review the CACREP-required program objectives of the mental health counseling program. Next, I would review standards across the common core and develop SLOs and KPIs for the course that addresses counseling curriculum standards. I would select course materials most aligned with achieving the SLOs grounded in CACREP standards and develop course assignments accordingly (including experiential, skills-based practice assignments). While developing a syllabus, my goal is to develop a thoughtful, comprehensive, transparent, accessible document that students can turn to with ease and understanding and will provide many opportunities (both in class and during office hours) to provide additional support for understanding expectations and aiming to ensure success. Finally, my approach to teaching is not limited to in-person, face-to-face classroom interactions. I am prepared to facilitate hybrid, asynchronous, or fully online courses with interactive, experiential learning experiences across the common core. I am comfortable utilizing online technology in my courses.
I believe knowledge grows in relationships. As an educator, I seek to foster relational learning with students. Radical adult education methods such as dialogue, critical reflection, and connection to course content in real-life experiences and situations are constructs I utilize to accomplish this goal, along with progressive adult education methods such as empowerment, recognizing feelings, and facilitating group discussion and interaction. One specific way I try to establish relational learning is through guided activities that enable students to engage in critical reflection and discussion with each other, such as process groups and triadic skills practice.
Uncovering meaning is a critical aspect of my teaching environment. I intend to remind students, through their classroom experience, of their “why” –why pursue a career as a professional counselor? – and how the goals of their “why” can be met throughout our learning experience. I aim to create a learning environment in which students feel guided and prepared to complete the necessary course components, are well-informed of expectations, and have access and encouragement from me to provide additional support or guidance as needed. I strive to create a teaching environment that may also be a “safe place to fail” and encourage students to have the courage to be imperfect in their learning (Carlson & Carlson, 2017). In the words of Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs, a champion and developer of Adler’s Individual Psychology, “To be human does not mean to be right, does not mean to be perfect. To be human means to be useful, to make contributions — not for oneself, but for others — to take what there is and to make the best of it” (Dreikurs, 1957).
I believe experience is a valuable source of knowledge. As an instructor of record for basic counseling skills, one of the first things I shared with students to frame the course was to present the basic counseling skills class as an opportunity to learn how to be a professional counselor. In other words, I believe counseling skills must be integrated with counseling experiences to solidify learning. Further, I believe previous learning experiences are a crucial foundation for adult learning. To continue in my example of a basic counseling skills course, I strive to engage students in a discussion of their life experiences, particularly recent and ongoing real-world experiences.
I utilize a variety of assessments to evaluate student learning outcomes and to facilitate and understand a wide spectrum of the student’s engagement and application of the content. I intend to create assignments that integrate components of the course and may serve as a foundation for future reference or research. These assignments include case study conceptualizations, immersion experiences, group research projects, assessments/clinical interviews, reflection papers, book reviews, and expressive and creative activities. Midterms, quizzes, and final exams will also be data points for understanding how students integrate course content. Overall, my goal in evaluation is to determine, through various modes of assessment, if students are achieving the desired student learning outcomes of the course, which are grounded in CACREP standards.