I'm currently finishing my third year as a doctoral student in Clinical Child Psychology at the University of Miami. The U is where my love for teaching has truly developed, though I was first seriously interested in teaching at Washington University in St. Louis, where I earned my B.A. in Psychology. At Wash. U., I had the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant (TA) for a trusted advisor, and I've loved my teaching experience ever since! I've continued to TA every semester I've been enrolled in graduate school and, additionally, have experience running my own course, Introduction to Biobehavioral Statistics, at the undergraduate level.
As a student myself, I have valued mentorship from teachers and professors and will typically seek out individuals whom I respect for their guidance regarding, for example, course work, research projects, clinical work, or even career or personal goals. I approach teaching from a very similar perspective. I believe that guiding students toward learning course material is more effective than simply lecturing or dictating to them. I believe that fostering independence in students, especially in terms of critical thinking skills and flexible problem solving, is more effective than simply working for a grade. And I believe in being a positive role model: a teacher who behaves professionally, who listens to students (and their parents!), and who is willing to put in as much effort as is required to solve the task at hand.
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I typically ask many questions of my students, listen to them, and try to guide them, with varying levels of structure dependent on the student and problem at hand, toward learning material.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
What I find to be beneficial when first meeting with a student (and with their parent as well, if applicable!) is setting goals and conducting an assessment of the student and their areas of weakness, as well as strength.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
My teaching style truly revolves around helping students achieve independence! Questions, questions, questions are key. Asking questions strengthens critical thinking skill and flexible problem solving.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Methods to sustain and increase motivation during sessions are best individually tailored. For example, for an elementary school student, I might give them stickers for every 15 minutes of focused work and then a prize from the prize box at the end of the session (sticky hands are very popular!). For an undergraduate, I might suggest a reward upon completion of a focused tutoring session, such as a sweet drink from Starbucks. To help with motivation outside of session and over longer period s of time, I might again suggest using positive reinforcement (there are some really great apps that provide positive reinforcement to build good habits). I might additionally engage older students in a discussion about what long term goals they want to work toward and, in turn, what short term goals they need to complete in order to move forward.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
I would try to engage in the student through different modalities (for example, auditory or visual), as well as pointing them toward and examining together different resources on that skill/concept.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Goal setting is critical when starting tutoring, as it ensures the tutor and students are both working toward the same end.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
I think it's important for me to model that enthusiasm for the subject and learning more generally. Beyond that, I always try to relate the topic at hand to something of interest to the student. For example, in statistics, it's usually pretty easy to generate research questions we can examine together that the student finds interesting.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
I think that it's important the student independently work through problems under my supervision so that I know for certain they can tackle that topic on their own. This also normally helps to improve the student's own confidence!
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
I always try to point out to students what they are doing well on and how they have progressed since the session began or since they started tutoring. This praise and positive reinforcement also makes negative feedback easier to hear!