For over a decade I have taught college students in a variety of subjects including writing and rhetoric, reading comprehension, public speaking, interpersonal and gender communication, as well as both academic and business and professional writing. My pedagogy is rooted in the active learning model where students are encouraged to engage the material through practical activities, as well as through discussion. It's important to me that my students feel trusted and trusting, and that all of our work takes place in a supportive manner that builds self esteem, while also challenging the students to achieve their goals.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus - Bachelors, Letters, Arts and Sciences (Theater and English
Graduate Degree: Temple University - Masters, History
College Level American Literature
High School English
High School Level American Literature
High School Writing
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I am a believer in the active learning model of education. Students can memorize as much as they wish, but learning requires that teachers find some way of allowing the student to apply what they have learned. In some subjects this is easier to achieve than in others, but in any interaction with a student, I try to make sure that the learning is as engaging and active as possible.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
The first thing that I do in a session with a student is to make sure that I find out something about them beyond just their academic needs. This makes it easier for me to find meaningful examples or illustrations that I can use when explaining a concept. In order to help students understand a concept or a subject, it helps to know how I can tailor my approach.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Independent learning depends on having the skills and the motivation. I encourage all my students to be curious about what they see around them in and out of school, and to make use of the digital technologies that are now so accessible to indulge their curiosity. This speaks to the motivation. Teaching students how to be independent learners also requires that I instruct them on how to seek credible answers, either through digital technology, books (remember those?), or even by developing the habit of asking questions of others.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
I think goals are an important part of how we motivate students. Setting goals, however, requires that we be realistic about what can be expected within the time frames available. It's a good thing to set high expectations sometimes, but just as often students need to be validated for the gradual improvement they make. This is particularly true if the student is feeling frustrated by past challenges.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Skill learning and concept learning are different. Skill learning generally requires more practice, whereas concept learning usually requires that the teacher find a new way of presenting the concept and relating it to the student. Conceptual thinking can be a challenge to students if the language that is used to explain the concept doesn't register with the student in the right way. This is where it helps to know the student beyond just their academic needs, because sometimes I can find a great method of explaining the concept by using one of their interests, or a concept with which they are already very familiar. Skill learning may also require innovative means of explanation, but the key to mastering a skill is to not only learn it in theory, but to practice it enough that it becomes second nature.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Reading comprehension can be rooted in several factors. I begin by focusing on what students are seeing at the sentence level, in order to assess their ability, in case there are serious impediments (e.g. optical issues) that may be at play. Generally, students respond well to a focus on strategies such as summarizing, sequencing, and establishing inferences. In some cases, visualization techniques help students to interpret content in a more imaginative manner. At other times, the best way to build reading comprehension skills is to practice note-taking that helps students to identify key concepts and how to map literary content so that it makes sense to them.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Establishing trust with a student is incredibly important, so when I first start working with them, I make sure that they see me as an ally who shares their goals.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Very few subjects are truly boring. The key to enthusiasm is perspective. I make a point of trying to re-position subject matter into terms that are relevant to the individual students, and that emphasize the practical value of the subject matter. Understanding history, for example, requires that we establish a narrative around the historical actors being studied, whereas learning to write requires that we understand the power of language to the audience.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
The best way to determine if a student is understanding material is to ask them to apply it. Memorization tests are popular right now, but they rarely test long-term comprehension. The better method is to give the student a scenario where they have to demonstrate their knowledge by applying the concepts they have learned, or demonstrating their aptitude with a skill.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Helping students to build confidence in a subject matter is an important part of mentoring. One method is to build from their own knowledge level up, rather than confronting them with complex or difficult material right away. When students begin to recognize that they do have understanding of a subject, and that understanding is tiered, then it helps them to feel confident in their abilities to continually master more and more complex subject matter.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
There are different ways to evaluate a student's needs, depending on the subject matter. Often students aren't sure themselves what their needs are; only what results they are seeking. I begin by talking with students to find out what they feel are their needs, and then I allow them to show me how they have been approaching the material up to now so I can see how their process can be adjusted, and/or what content they struggle with most and why.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Tailoring a tutoring session to the student is crucial in successful tutoring. In part, I adapt to the student's communication style, but I also make a point of identifying what specific needs the student has, and how to talk about them in a way that the student will respond to.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Depending on the subject matter, we may use any number of tools. Primarily I like for students to use pen and paper over digital tools when practicing writing, because paper is typically understood by students to be less permanent. It's a safe space to make mistakes and revise. In other subject areas, however, I make full use of technologies, and will even use unorthodox tools like dolls or construction materials if they can help.