part 4: teaching philosophy

I am passionate about teaching in higher education contexts. Over past 6 years, I have had the opportunity to teach and work with students at multiple levels and contexts. I have taught engineers and preservice teachers at undergraduate level, in-service teachers at graduate level, and conducted several professional development workshops with international teaching assistants and graduate students at university level, and in-service teachers in K-12 settings. I have also worked as an educational counselor for over 2 years in India, working one-on-one with students regarding their educational development and career. While teaching at both undergraduate and graduate level, I have taught in face-to-face, online, and hybrid or blended (partially face-to-face and online) formats. Additionally, I have also interacted with small groups of 4-5 students as a fellow with the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities discussing intricacies of learning a foreign language (Hindi) (http://www.rcah.msu.edu/people/language-fellows), led several workshops as an Inside Teaching fellow at the Graduate School (insideteaching.grad.msu.edu), and hosted, produced, and conducted webinars that were shared publicly on the internet (http://bridge.educ.msu.edu/). My students have ranged from freshmen to in-service teachers with over ten years of experience, in settings where section sizes have ranged from as low as one student to 120, and even sessions intended for bigger and live audience over the internet. In all these, I have received highly positive student evaluations as well was part of the team that was awarded the MSU-AT&T Best Blended Course Award of Excellence in 2015 for creating a synchronous video conferencing and collaboration classroom for an undergraduate level course.

My approach to teaching comes through a rich array of lenses— deeply connected to my background, interests, and my stance towards education. My background in engineering, my passion for science as a way of knowing, my love of cinema as medium for
expression, and my understanding of the socio-cultural nature of learning have all influenced how I approach the act of teaching. Thus, I value learning that is both grounded in knowledge of the discipline yet is not bounded by it. At heart is an understanding of the deeply humanistic nature of learning and thus seeks to address the learner in a holistic manner. Therefore, I seek to critically address multiple ways of being, knowing, and doing through an emphasis on three approaches that have always held true: humanizing pedagogies (Price & Osbore, 2000), enacted within multiliteracies framework (The New London Group, 1996) to mobilize knowledge (Kapczynski, 2008). To me, each of these provides a unique perspective on the process of learning even while being deeply interconnected with each other.

Humanizing Pedagogies. Throughout my teaching, irrespective of the format, I have attempted to create humanizing learning environments that encourage multiple voices and multiple ways of being, knowing, and doing. I encourage my students to reflect on where they stand in the society, critically question what they know about the world, and contribute their understanding back to society. For this reason, I often practice dialog with my students around critical issues of race and gender equity, media literacy, scientific literacy, creativity, and the role of technology. For example, in an undergraduate course titled Reflections on Learning, we discuss a wide range of topics, from the significance of being a culturally and globally competent citizen to covering the basics of learning theories and the human brain. My approach that blends humanistic approaches with multiliteracies underlies every aspect of the class and has gathered me overwhelmingly positive feedback from my students. As a result, as a class, we have learned to value and practice empathy as a key to humanizing learning and being culturally and globally competent. Example of student work and feedback can be found here: http://mehtarohit.com/portfolio/teaching/.

Multiliteracies . There are multiple ways for someone to be literate. Literacy cannot be limited by a dominant culture’s definition of what it means to be literate (Barton & Hamilton, 1998). This is why, as a teacher, it is my responsibility to allow multiple identities, knowledge, and interactions to be possible and accessible to my students. With my graduate level teaching, I have worked with in-service teachers teaching in various settings. But, the one experience that I have found to be the most rewarding is my work with Chicago Public School teachers of STEM disciplines as an instructor in graduate certification on STEM & Leadership in urban school settings (www.msurbanstem.org). Dealing with daily challenges of urban school settings and student engagement with STEM motivated me and the teachers I worked with to try new, creative ways of using technology in effective ways to engage students with the content and learn what it means to gain disciplinary understanding. We explored student misconceptions in science and mathematics by breaking the laws of nature through stop-motion animation. We created demotivational posters to face our biggest challenges in a humorous way. We also worked on the intersections of science and humanities and addressed the inherent nature of wonder and beauty in science and mathematics by creating videos that appeal aesthetically (Mehta & Keenan, 2016). Amidst all this, we learned the significance of teachers being STEM leaders in their schools and community. This is a work I am most proud of and intend to continue in other face-to-face, online, or hybrid forms if given an opportunity. More examples of student work can be found here: http://mehtarohit.com/portfolio/teaching/ and www.msurbanstem.org.

Knowledge Mobilization. In addition to teaching in formal settings, I am passionate about teacher professional development and spend a significant amount of time developing workshops and online content for the Graduate School targeted at Teaching Assistants (insideteaching.grad.msu.edu). The act of creating these modules has emphasized to me the value of knowledge mobilization, particularly with digital technologies. I believe it is important for us as educators to use internet-based platforms to reach other teachers and learners to promote and exchange ideas and knowledge about practices and pedagogies that work. For this reason, I, along with some of my colleagues at Michigan State, created and have hosted a webinar series on teacher professional development. I have done almost every aspect of work for this webinar series, from running the webinar to being its social media manager, and from being part of a panel to actually hosting specific episodes (bridge.educ.msu.edu).

Looking Forward. In future, I see myself flexible and fit to lead face-to-face, online, and hybrid classes on issues of critical, scientific, and media literacy, technology, and STEM in urban and rural contexts. In keeping with my interest in multiple literacies, I seek to design contexts that not only provide access to information but also help develop the skills to transform this information into knowledge, as well as practice agency to apply this knowledge for solving problems. To achieve these three goals, the teacher, students, and technology partake in an educational transaction. Through this transaction, both the teacher and the students conduct a dialog and develop as human beings. They learn to think critically, scientifically, and humanely about the world, life, the problems we face, and solutions we can create. Thus, in that manner, both the learner and the teacher are transformed. This aspect of teaching and learning is what inspires me and helps me work towards a continuous cycle of improvement and growth.

Artifacts from the workshop:

Artifact 1
Artifact 2
Artifact 3

References
Barton, D., & Hamilton, M. (1998). Local literacies: Reading and writing in one community.
Psychology Press.
Price, J. N., & Osborne, M. D. (2000). Challenges of Forging a Humanizing Pedagogy in Teacher Education. Curriculum and Teaching, 15(1), 27–51. http://doi.org/10.7459/ct/15.1.03 The New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard
Educational Review, 66(1), 60–93.
Mehta, R., & Keenan, S. (2016). Research to practice: Why teachers should care about beauty in science education. I Wonder: Rediscovering School Science, (2), 83–86.
Kapczynski, A. (2008). The access to knowledge mobilization and the new politics of intellectual property. Yale Law Journal , 117 (804).

 

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