Teaching Statement ||| Craig D. Howard, PhD
This document describes the axioms I follow when making pedagogical decisions. I find following these axioms results in improved teaching. These axioms also link to my research because they bring about the pedagogical innovations that I study.
1. Accountability to multiple stakeholders leads to better teaching
Being a professional teacher means balancing the perspectives of all the stakeholders. I make my teaching accountable to students, administration, peers, and myself. This leads to better teaching and enjoyment of my work.
The student perspective
Open-ended forms of feedback uncover pedagogical options. I ask questions beyond the university evaluations, and I ask learners to provide the questions I should be asking, but have not. Learner comments on these open-ended questions provided the impetus for my study of anonymity in peer critique, “When we critique the teacher it is anonymous, but when we critique each other we have to give our name” (Howard et al., 2010). Learner artifacts also provide the student perspective. In his online portfolio for a state teaching license, an Indiana University pre-service teacher writes that my handling of his unexpected and extended absence was a model of good teaching.
The administrative perspective
One item on teaching evaluations has been shown to significantly correlate with learning (Frick, et. al. 2007) “Overall, I would rate this instructor as outstanding.” My gains on this item rose considerably through five iterations of teaching a single course. I grew from better than only 30% of IU teachers’ ratings to higher than 68% of other IU teachers’ ratings. University administration considers more than just classroom teaching. At the IU student advocates office I conducted interviews for a new hire and wrote a report. The experience led to a lesson about utilizing IU resources. In this instance, my teaching practice improved in contributing to the overall well-being of the university, an aspect of my teaching I had not previously considered.
The perspectives of my peers
I use reciprocal, non-judgmental peer-observations to see my work from other angles and discover innovations. This practice has been universally welcomed, resulting in a peer observation grant in 2002 (password: Craig). Without knowing my colleagues’ perspectives, and without them knowing mine, my workplace would surely not be as enjoyable as it is.
The personal perspective
I maintain a blog to I grapple with my own values as they relate to these other value systems. The tensions I uncover often lead to taking small risks on new teaching ideas.
2. Small risks result in teaching improvements
Taking small risks can have transformative impact if carefully pursued. In 1998 I adapted a classroom pair work activity into a pair work activity conducted via email. The following semester I wrote guidelines for the activity and took it with me to my new position in Japan. I then expanded the curriculum from four weeks to 15 weeks. Other teachers became interested, and I applied for a small grant to support the project. The following year I secured a larger grant to develop an accompanying website where the curricula could be easily accessed. This helped in recruiting partner institutions. These small risks resulted in an Email exchange program (password: Craig) with over 2000 participants, providing foreign language learners with learning opportunities unprecedented in traditional curricula. The small risk paid off many fold.
I laid the groundwork for my dissertation with a similar small risk. While teaching a distance course, I noticed lackluster participation in the online forums. I changed a task from learners viewing different classes and discussing in an online forum, to learners viewing the same class on YouTube and commenting via annotations. Participation increased by over 200%, and learner reactions were extremely positive. I developed the design further and studied it. Bonk and Khoo (2013) listed Collaborative Video Annotation as one of the most innovative learning designs of 2012.
This teaching statement identified concrete examples of improved teaching that I created by following two axioms. My teaching always develops.