Richard's Teaching Statement

 

I love teaching. I have worked for 32 years and have lectured part-time in the evenings for more than 28 years. This Teaching Statement encapsulates my philosophy in teaching the Creative Thinking module and guides me on my journey to be a better teacher. It is written in past tense as it is more in the spirit of a reflections of things I have tried and done and it had worked for me.

“Education is not the filling of a vessel but the kindling of a flame,” Socrates.

Creative Thinking was perceived to be airy-fairy stuff, so igniting students’ interest and getting them to buy into the module were crucial. My role was to get students excited about Creative Thinking and to take ownership of their own learning. If they were excited, they would find ways to learn. In this age of the internet, students can learn incredible amount about a topic with a few clicks of their mouse.

 

So, at the beginning of the course, I helped students appreciate the importance, benefits and value of being a creative person. I told them that I believe they can be amazingly creative and get them to believe in themselves too. I get them to visualize that they already possessed creative problem-solving capability. I wanted them to embrace their future with confidence as they were equipped with creative thinking skill set to tackle whatever challenges life throws at them. I also set aside 10 to 15 minutes at the beginning of each topic to ensure student buy into that topic.

I have adopted the Student-Centred Teaching and Learning approach. Once I received the attendance list, I studied the diversity of students (in terms of age, nationalities and differing academic standing). I did some social engineering to group international students with local students. I also grouped the local students based on their Thinking Styles (using the BrainEEE Cards System) to enhance group creativity.

 

I saw myself as a guide on the side rather the sage on the stage. My role was not merely to teach but to facilitate learning opportunities - to nurture and to inspire my students to develop themselves to their fullest potential. How do I put this into practice?  I set aside class time for students to discuss their group project. This allowed me to sit down with small groups of students and to respond to questions they initiated. It allowed me opportunities to listen to the way they think and to coach individually if necessary.

 

Effective teaching is a 2-way process. It was important for me to gauge student’s prior knowledge of a topic so that I could pitch my lesson at the level most of them could comprehend. I used the Mentimeter, a mobile app that enabled real-time voting. I used it to aggregate the students' vote of their understanding of the topic I would be teaching. I also use it to gather real-time feedback on how well students understood the topic I was teaching. I told my students that it was their duty to ask questions when in doubt. I awarded marks for class participations. This incentivized students to speak up and trained them to  articulate the creative ideas they have conceptualized. To provide a safe learning environment, I have a “no criticism” rule. All ideas were welcomed and recorded on flip chart papers. In fact, spontaneous, zany and half-baked ideas were encouraged. I have a technique which leverages on these crazy ideas to prompt students to think of creative ideas.

 

I am a strong advocate of Understanding by Design. This is a pedagogical approach to instructional design and implementation. It is based on integration of learning outcomes with assessment scheme and  instructional delivery. I started with crystallizing clear learning outcomes and worked backward to determine the type of assessment scheme that would drive students to acquire the learned response. Then I designed the instructional delivery elements to help them cope with the assessment scheme. Project requirements were usually open-ended. Student decided on whether to put up a skit, conduct a quiz in the form of a game show or any non-traditional way of demonstrating their knowledge.

 

I did not set one standard of performance to apply to all my students. Instead, I take each student where they were and helped them reach their next level. To help students realize their potential, I have set high expectations.  The course was application-oriented. Students received a “C” grade when they regurgitate course content in their project work. To get the elusive “A” grade, they were expected to produce innovative solutions and demonstrated they have applied the creative know-how taught.

 

Seize the teachable moments. I am prepared to vary lesson plans to suit the happening of current events. For example, the Creative Thinking module outline which was given to the students did not include the haze situation. Halfway through the Creative Thinking module (in October 2015), Singapore experienced its worst haze problem. Its Pollution Standards Index (PSI) reached a record of 471. The haze affected everyone badly. I tweaked the lesson plans to accommodate discussions of the haze crisis. Spreading over 3 lessons of 20-30 minutes duration, students applied the creative thinking techniques to tackle the haze problem. Unbeknown to the student , I had set them up for failure as the government authorities in the ASEAN countries could not solve the haze problem. It  had persisted for more than 4 decades. However, the lessons learnt were invaluable. Students learnt about the applicability and limitations of the creative know-how they were taught.

 

I believe reflection and reinforcement were the most important part of the learning process. At the beginning of each class, one project group would be rostered to conduct a quiz, showed a Youtube video or do a skit to reinforce the lessons learnt from the the last lecture. Also, students have to submit learning journals as part of individual assessment.

For social proof of Richard's Teaching Statement, please see testimonials from his students and corporate clients.

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