Heather Mong 1 Reflective Essay I have learned a lot about myself as a teacher

Heather Mong 1
Reflective Essay
I have learned a lot about myself as a teacher, both from getting experience in teaching as
well as the certification process through TILT. I feel confident at this point that I am capable of
successfully teaching college level courses. I have acquired many useful skills, many of which
came directly from the TILT seminars. In working to develop my teaching abilities I have learned
much about how we learn information, good and bad ways to present material, and techniques
to help combat common teaching problems to name a few. This reflective essay is helping me
verbalize and summarize what I have gotten out of the certification process.
Most surprising things I learned about myself
The most surprising thing I learned about myself is how far I have come in my teaching abilities
since starting graduate school. I had no experience teaching beyond volunteer work with a
non-profit astronomy group in educating primary school children. At first, I was uncomfortable
speaking in front of even small groups. Now I am happy to speak in front of a large classroom.
Since I am more comfortable in front of the classroom, I am better able to multitask while lecturing.
I have learned to read my students’ expressions to gauge comprehension. I am able to
dynamically interact with my students in both formal lectures as well as less formal one-on-one
Another surprising aspect is that I am confident in the knowledge I have to convey to my
students in the classes I have taught. As a student I was always impressed by the seemingly
endless pool of knowledge my professors were able to draw on in lecture. Many times in teaching
my students have had interesting and surprising questions about the content which I was able to
answer, or at the very least speculate upon. A very exciting consequence of this is I have been able
to incorporate these questions into following semesters as discussion points.
My teaching strengths
Based on what I wrote in putting together my ePortfolio, I think one of my teaching strengths will
be to work techniques into the classroom that promote learning and retention of the material. I
am fortunate that my discipline, cognitive psychology, has many direct implications for effective
teaching. For example, it has been established that information will be better remembered when it
is tested rather than just restudied. Therefore, it is important to not only inform students of optimal
studying habits, but also build in opportunities for mini-tests of knowledge during class.
Directly relevant to my research is the distinction between explicit and implicit knowledge.
It is critically important for students to explicitly learn the material so they will be able to link
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other information back to it, which also enhances learning, but also to enable them to transfer
the material beyond the context it was learned. An education would be almost worthless if the
students were unable to take what they have learned beyond the final exam. One way to promote
explicit knowledge of the material is to build in activities wherein students link the concepts to
other concepts of the course or apply the concept to issues of the students’ own interests.
A somewhat unique teaching strength I have is when a student does not understand a concept,
I find it a fun challenge to get the right analogy or example that finally lets the student understand.
As a student it brought me no end of frustration when I did not understand a concept and my
instructor was only able to reiterate the same example given from the book, sometimes changing
the phrasing. I have made it a personal mission to avoid this as much as I can in teaching. This
is easier to handle in small classrooms, but is possible in larger classrooms as well. When I have
a larger classroom, if a student is particularly struggling with a concept, I will either try to have
them talk with me after class, or work in different examples in the following session.
What I learned through TILT
I feel I learned a lot of useful skills through the TILT workshops I attended. I have learned techniques
I can implement to not only deal with plagiarism when it occurs, but to also help prevent
it from occurring at all. I think the suggestion of giving students specific sources to incorporate
into their assignments is good on many levels. For the students it helps reduce the perceived work
they are having to put into the assignment as the job of finding sources is at least partially done for
them. This also reduces the likelihood the less-inclined students will be able to find a ready-made
paper on the internet. This workshop also taught me more about the legal processes underlying
academic integrity issues, which can be daunting and somewhat inaccessible as a graduate student.
In other workshops I learned how to foster a more dynamic classroom. This is both from my
performance as a teacher as well as working in more effective questioning of the students. I think
what I have learned from these workshops will be very crucial with my view of teaching and these
techniques will help keep the students more engaged and active in their learning.
Key documents in my ePortfolio
Directly linked from the home page of my ePortfolio are my CV, experiential learning form, teaching
and research statements. From the starting page of my ePortfolio the components of the portfolio
are accessible. I have included a video of a guest lecture I gave in the introductory psychology
class this past semester. For teaching evaluations I have included a summary of my teaching evaluations
from the undergraduates I have instructed as well as a written summary from Dr. Vicki
Volbrecht who was kind enough to critique my teaching. My teaching materials contain lesson
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plans, assignments, rubrics, and different tests I have either directly used in my teaching or would
use if I had more control over the structure of the course. Finally are my workshop review forms
with my summary of the workshop along with what I am taking away from the experience.