My Philosophy as an Educational Developer

Facilitating culturally inclusive education

 The guiding principles in my work stem from my belief that education can and should play an important role in social justice and equity (Freire, 1990). In my current role as a Language and Communication Instructor, I engage with these values in two ways.

  1.  An important component of my role involves empowering international teaching assistants (ITAs) by equipping with them with tools for success in Canadian academia. To facilitate this process, I coordinate a suite of workshops for ITAs known as the Western Certificate in Academic and Professional Communication. These workshops provide ITAs with safe spaces in which to form community, reflect on their own communication styles, practice their teaching and presentation skills, and give each other feedback.
  2. I also work with instructors to help them internationalize their curricula, facilitate learning across cultures, and prepare their students to be global citizens. I encourage instructors to consider the classroom from the perspective of their international students so they can provide opportunities for students to share their knowledge with others in the class and so that instructors can be sympathetic to the challenges that attend cultural adjustments.

My commitment to inclusive education resulted in the co-development of the Intercultural Teaching Competence (ITC) Framework – a model that outlines 20 key skills of interculturally competent instructors (Dimitrov & Haque, 2016). This framework offers faculty an opportunity to reflect on their strengths in the area of ITC and identify areas they would like to learn more about. I frequently use the framework in faculty development workshops to anchor discussions of inclusive teaching and to offer faculty concrete strategies they can incorporate into their repertoires.

Collaborating with Educational Developers

Collaborating with other educational developers allows me to reflect on my own practice, be mentored by more experienced developers, and share ideas with others. I find this particularly valuable in my own work around how to encourage instructors to teach with diversity in mind. I recently had the opportunity to collaborate with educational developers across Ontario to create an open access course entitled Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Nanda Dimitrov and I contributed an online module to this course, entitled “Globalization of Learning”, which can be used by educational developers in their own workshops as they work with instructors who wish to develop their intercultural teaching skills. In my facilitator’s guide which accompanies this module, I shared ideas on how to scaffold activities, anticipate learner resistance, and debrief identity-involving discussions.

One of the initiatives that I am most proud of in my work as an educational developer is my contribution of a WordPress blog for TAGSA (a SIG of STLHE). During the 2014 annual general meeting of the SIG, members requested an online site where TA developers could post and share material in order to gain a better sense of TA development initiatives in Canada. This request inspired me to join the TAGSA executive and create a blog site devoted to resources for TA developers. It has been a joy to watch the site evolve as TA developers contribute content and take the blog in new directions.

Respecting diverse disciplinary teaching cultures

Lynn Taylor urges educational developers to think about how our work spans diverse disciplinary communities and to find ways to communicate our message across the disciplines (2010). In my practice, I approach each department with a deep respect for their unique teaching culture. In order to effectively respond to instructor needs in ways that are authentic to these disciplines, I try to foster relationships with and among departments on campus. This is particularly important in my coordination of the Lead TA Program where I connect Lead TAs with supervisors in their own departments who can best mentor them into the teaching culture of the department. I see my role in this process to be that of a facilitator who offers generalized training on best practices in higher education, connects the Lead TAs to appropriate resources and literature, and encourages them to apply these principles to the signature pedagogies of their disciplines.

At the same time, I believe that the humanities are of immense value to the field of educational development (Chick, 2013). From mobilizing metaphors and storytelling as strategies to help instructors communicate complex scientific concepts, to incorporating role-plays or theatre of the oppressed approaches in workshops to help participants explore difficult teaching scenarios from multiple perspectives, tapping into my humanities background allows me to communicate best practices in teaching and learning across the disciplines.

While these three values (facilitating culturally inclusive education, collaborating with educational developers, and respecting diverse disciplinary teaching cultures) anchor and inform my approach to educational development, I anticipate my philosophy to evolve as I continue on my journey as a facilitator and educator. Remaining open to new experiences, reflecting on challenges, learning from colleagues, and being attentive to emerging scholarship in our field will allow me to respond flexibly to the ever-shifting landscape of higher education.

References

Chick, N. (2013). Difference, power, and privilege in the scholarship of teaching and learning: The value of humanities SoTL. In K. McKinney (Ed.) The scholarship of teaching and learning in and across the disciplines (pp.15-33). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Dimitrov, N. & Haque, A. (2016).  Intercultural teaching competence: A multidisciplinary framework for instructor reflection. Intercultural Education. Special Issue: Learning at Intercultural Intersections. 27(5), 437-456. doi.org/10.1080/14675986.2016.1240502

Freire, P. (1990). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. New York, NY: Columbia.

Taylor, K. L. (2010, Summer). Understanding the disciplines within the context of educational development. New Directions for Teaching and Learning: Pathways to the Profession of Educational Development, 122, 59-67.