- Liger Medical.
12/12/2011 - present.
Comments: Director of Quality
Jeremy Freed – Teaching Philosophy
Our brains are designed to process information in specific ways. We understand the world by making connections to our existing knowledge and frames. When students have limited frames, they need guidance to help adapt to seeing things from a new perspective. My experience as a student has taught me that I do not learn through rote memorization or repetitive practice. I learn most concretely when challenged to connect concepts to concrete artifacts or to other concepts. Learning, then, functions like a network. New knowledge connects to existing core knowledge. When I add new nodes to the network, I increase my knowledge. When I add new connections between nodes, I increase my understanding.
My Connection to the Network
As a teacher, I am like a network technician. My role is to help students build new nodes and, crucially, to connect nodes together. Teaching happens when instructors guide students to that “aha” moment when multiple nodes become linked, like when students realize that McLuhan’s ‘the medium is the message’ shifts focus away from trying to find hidden meanings in content and instead examine how the medium of the message is itself a critical part of communication. These linkages are more strongly shaped when multiple options for making connections are given, such as when students are given a visual model diagram of a theory, an article applying the theory, and an example of a media artifact that demonstrates the theory. When building new nodes, I try and use content that is directly relevant to both the desired course outcomes and to students’ lived experiences. For example, having students reflect on influential teachers from their early education to better understand the concept of prototypes. New nodes and node connections must happen simultaneously in order for the connections to be sufficiently strong: one does not occur without the other. Teaching is not all about content, however. Sometimes, networks develop problems. Nodes are not complete or connections are inadequate or breakdown. At these times, my role is that of technical support. I help students diagnose the problem; then, either help them rebuild a problematic node, strengthen faulty connections, or build new connections to strengthen their network. When my internet goes down, I want technical support to be available to help me; I believe that I must also be available to my students when their networks have problems to provide feedback and guidance.
Goals for the Network
My goals as a teacher are to help students learn how to learn, learn how to think about learning, as well as how to write effectively. As I have learned from my work with my institution’s center for teaching and learning, when students understand why they are learning a concept and how the learning process works, they are more likely to retain and be able to apply the concept. Moreover, I encourage students to become more collaborative so that they will be able to competently work with others in the future. My experience working in the medical industry has taught me that working in isolation is not an option in many fields. Employers want employees who are competent at communicating and collaborating. I want students to be able to apply concepts and ideas in ethical, engaged ways that will aid them in becoming thoughtful and humane individuals in society. Our society has become tribal and polarized in concerning ways and I hope to help my students build resilience and dual perspective to help navigate our broader tribal and polarized socio-political climate.
Building the Network
To achieve my teaching goals, I apply a multi-faceted practical approach to designing and management. I firmly believe in transparency and work hard to ensure that the purpose, instructions, and criteria are all clear to students at the outset of my courses. I provide grading rubrics intended both to provide students with transparent expectations of outcomes, but also to encourage creative thinking. During classes, I try to implement a mixture of teaching methods to provide as many potential node connections as possible. Lecture is important for establishing the foundations of knowledge, or building the nodes, but I also weave in active learning assessments, such as think*pair*share, short writing responses that connect class concepts to student backgrounds, group discussions, and collaborative analysis of examples. I never accept one-word answers, since the goals is to create connections and not merely assess memory. I always ask my students to take their answers one step further, to clarify, elaborate, or expand and relate back to their lives. Frequently, I try to provide examples of successful work, either by providing samples from previous courses, or by modeling.
Improving the Network
I strive to keep an open mind as my teaching career progresses, and I supplement my classroom experience with outside observations, workshops, and pedagogical courses through my university’s center for teaching and learning. As an ethnographer, reflexivity is critical to my scholarship and I try and apply the same standards to my teaching. I solicit feedback and arrange for classroom observations to help identify my strengths and weaknesses. In the future, I plan to continue striving for excellence through self-assessment and observer feedback.