Developing a personal philosophy of communication and training philosophy evolves and changes over time. Over the past 30 years I have had the opportunity to interact with adult learners, teaching them lower and higher order thinking, negotiation, and communication skills. I have taught a wide variety of student populations, both heterogeneous and homogenous: various ethnic groups, new immigrants, prisoners, gifted adolescents, adults, rural residents, and inner city populations. While the methodology of how I prepared for each capacity building/training/teaching challenge may have been similar, the difference was in how I interacted with each learner and how I structured relevant real-life examples.
Indeed, learning participants acquire a broad range of skills, motivations, values, and cognitive capacities from diverse peers when provided with the appropriate opportunities to do so, thus each individual has a unique perspective to contribute to learning environments. While there has been much contemporary discussion about teacher-centered and student-centered teaching and learning styles, it is more likely that as an instructor moves through a class or course they will alter their teaching approach to fit the situation, idea or concept. At one moment when presenting new concepts I may take on a direct lecturing role; at other times when exploring the students’ own thinking, on their constructs, I am likely to switch to a learner-centered or mentor type role to guide students through an analysis of their own thoughts. Therefore, my training and communication style is exceptionally dynamic. I believe in immediately beginning to build a learner community through activities that form relationships. In addition, I offer time management techniques, discussion skills, questioning techniques, listening skills, organizational skills, library research strategies, and structured assignments. To appeal to a variety of learning styles, I use all learning modalities: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
Exposure to material from different cultures and domains raises questions, fractures preconceptions, and diminishes prejudices, leading to an expansion of the mind, heightened creative possibilities, and an application of critical thinking skills. People learn concepts and practices that enable them to engage in dialogues that are nonhierarchical, nonjudgmental, experiential, synthesizing, and positive. While delivering course content and insuring that participants are learning practical skills and applicable knowledge, I continually adapt the course to participants’ different and growing needs. I adapt to genders ensuring a safe, nurturing environment for all learners. I am sensitive to all needs, employing creativity, improvisation, and continually asking questions to nurture confidence, trust, self-discovery, integration of their past experiences, present realities, and future aspirations.
Within societies, both domestic and abroad, when one looks at the role of education, technical assistance and capacity building we must look at both formal and informal learning roles. Formally, it is the hope that being an educated person relates to being a well-rounded critical thinker with an appreciation for the sciences, the arts, and many other disciplines. Beyond formal education one can argue that it is often the informal educational experiences in life, such as interests, hobbies, and cultural experiences that take what we have learned in the formal traditional settings and broadens our understanding of concepts into a richer perception of the world.
Hence my philosophy is best answered by stating that I aim to develop highly-skilled and competent speech-language communications in a variety of settings with a vast variety of people and practices that demonstrate “real-world” business, social, and professional environments. My overall philosophy is based on two learning principles: (1) active participation and practice; and (2) criterion referenced and diagnostic assessment. By providing timely, prompt qualitative and quantitative feedback on dialogues, discussions, speech practice, and assignments enables me to inform students about their performance throughout the class and course. Experiential, service-learning pedagogy allows participants, at all levels, to apply their knowledge to real-world situations in community contexts. I hope to inspire participants to acquire functional skills to improve their personal and professional interactions and all communications (listening, understanding, speaking, and persuading).
While the mechanics of lecture notes, class preparation, and well-constructed course outlines are a part of any good course, the training style one adapts during the course needs to guide students through theoretical and practical skills while drawing upon the students’ life experiences and goals. It is my role, as instructor, to make the learning experience challenging, rewarding, and to some degree entertaining all at the same time.