Growth in Confidence
My role as an instructor is to educate, inform, empower, motivate and assist learners. To fulfill this role, I share an appropriate balance of power between myself and learners.
I instruct my undergraduate learners in ways that allow growth in confidence—eliminating at times—crippling and constant requests of perpetual handholding. I hold strongly to bolstering undergraduate learners’ confidence since the world post-graduation provides little to no guidance for undergraduates. This shared power relationship is seen through constant encouragement and obligatory engagement in classroom discussions early on in semesters. My observation holds that encouraging my piano students is very similar to encouraging my undergraduate students. With constant reassurance in respective primer piano levels and start of university semesters—admitting my mistakes even as a professional—immediately seems to permit a shared balance of power between myself and students. Learners begin to realize that perhaps minor mistakes are not so detrimental as they may have previously perceived. This encourages them to not only change their perception of their self-worth, recognizing that their mistakes do not determine their value, but also to see instructors as what they are meant to be—instructors and not know-it-alls. It is imperative that I foster an environment where feedback is provided on a consistent basis throughout a course to ensure that I adjust my teaching strategies where necessary and in turn enhance learning development.
Collaboration is Crucial
It is my responsibility to foster an environment where collaboration amongst peers occur via group discussions as I observe the fear of peer-peer interactions dwindle throughout the semester.
Whether a 4-week explorative face-to-face interactive course or a year-long online course, it is the instructor’s responsibility to provide learners with new knowledge and build their confidence. Learners should leave with new intrinsic knowledge and experiences. Within the research practicums, placement and theses courses that I assist in, new experiences are bound to occur as it is the majority of undergraduates' first-time volunteering in a lab or workplace. Even if they had been in the same placement or lab setting prior, no experience can offer an exact replica of a previous one. As I encourage placement students to develop strong theoretical foundations via individual assessments, I also encourage students to write thoughtful reflections and discuss their own experiences within groups of like-minded peers. Their collaborative efforts and individual critical reflective writing changes their perspectives about lab settings and workplace environments while diminishing their fear of peer-to-peer interactions that is so heavily concentrated at the start of the semester. The observed initial fear amongst students is perhaps due to a lack of strong cohort building in a populous department. It is my responsibility to foster an environment where collaboration amongst peers occur via group discussions online and in-person.
Many testimonials via written reflections have been that anxieties have been removed because of the implemented group discussions amongst like-minded peers, and the “ability to connect in-class content to the outside world has become easier”. In future endeavours analogous to placement and lab settings either in other courses or post-graduation, fears of collaborating with colleagues will diminish while connecting content knowledge with applied knowledge will be less effortful.
Experiential Learning Enhances Development
"Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience" (Kolb, 1984).
The notion that we learn via experience has been passed down for centuries. I would not teach a student how to play the piano by simply giving them a lesson book and reading it to them. It is imperative that they sit behind a piano—and play. Similarly, Kolb’s (1984) cyclical four stages of experiential learning:
(concrete experience reflective observation abstract conceptualization active implementation)
maintains this notion while introducing the concept and importance of learning through reflection on doing. To help facilitate this type of learning, I frequently design assignments that include reflecting on future goals/experiences and past goals/experiences. I firmly believe that this teaching strategy often provides students with opportunities to connect theoretical knowledge with applied knowledge, thus solidifying learning. Reflecting in verbal and written form also challenges students to identify their own previous misconceptions regarding the course’s subject matter.
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development (Vol. 1). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.