Graduate Student Instructors

2011 UTEP Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student

Davi Kallman
Graduate Student Department of Communication
President Appreciation of Diverse Dispositions (A.D.D.)

III.  Teaching Philosophy: Learning By Doing in a Liberating Structure

Every student, despite their personal upbringing and economic background, should be guaranteed an incredible education with educators who inspire them and create environments of liberation and imagination. Students should be encouraged and offered help by educators rather than be discouraged if they do not meet academic standards.

For me, the most important feature of teaching is to ensure that students are learning and not memorizing material. It is my belief that many classroom environments encourage students to memorize material to pass rather than harness what they learn in a manner that will follow them throughout their lives. I want my students to be able to harness knowledge they learn in the classroom.

One of the encouraging factors of memorization is lecturing. Teachers that stand up in the front of the class and lecture straight from the textbook foster memorization. It is my belief that if you create a liberating structure and supportive environment, students will learn rather than memorize. In order for students to learn I institute a different style of teaching called liberating structures. Through liberating structures I am able to foster collective intelligence, where students build on each other’s ideas. I stick to the premise that the teacher is simply a facilitator and is in charge of the classroom but not in control. It is through this notion that I have been able to improve my teaching style in a way that students learn and retain knowledge in the classroom to succeed academically. I also acknowledge the fact that my students are important and need to be treated as such. My students would say that I take a vested interest in their academics and also in their intellectual well being. Hence, I talk to my students, make sure they are not overwhelmed, I want to make them feel like I am serving them as their teacher.

Liberating Structures

I institute a liberating structure in the classroom by first making the students realize that they are not only students but also key participants in the learning process. I give students the opportunity to feel like experts by allowing them to teach. I put students into groups of five and groups are asked to teach the class on chapters from the textbook. Students are encouraged to be creative in this endeavor and are allowed to do anything from using PowerPoint to making demonstrations, which make it easier for students to understand concepts. Giving students free reign over teaching their chapters allows them to build of each other’s ideas and encourages creativity. Students are able to teach the class in a way that they understand the material.

Liberating structures encompasses creating a positive and comfortable environment that allows creativity to thrive.  I strive to move away from the conventional classroom setting and teach my students the importance of being an effective public speaker but also an effective listener. As a class we discuss the facets of being an effective listener and for class presentations I ask students to do peer evaluations of their classmates so that they are engaging in an effective listening process. In addition to creating a comfortable environment I strive to engage students through relevancy. When we discuss new terms and topics I make it a point to stress that the material is relevant and relatable. Through classroom discussions I strive to be relatable by engaging technology and music, which makes learning fun and unpredictable. In my class, students feel like they have a vested interest in their education and want to come and learn. I have discussed that giving students freedom to teach the material to classmates is an effective way to learn and now I will discuss other methods of learning by doing.

Learning By Doing

In addition to creating a liberating classroom structure, I am a firm believer that students learn by doing. It is one thing for students to see and hear the information they are learning in the classroom, it is another thing all together to engage in the learning process. One of the ways I institute learning by doing is inviting community leaders to come and be guest speakers. Having community leaders come and speak to the class reinforces the material learning in class and showcases different speaking styles. Students are required to do a communication observation of the guest speakers, which allows them to reflect on the speaking style and how they can improve their own. Another method of learning by doing is through playing games. I am a visual learner and believe that every student learns differently. I integrate playing games along with class lectures to reinforce the material. The first day of class I bring Legos to class and ask groups to create something with the Legos that represents the group collectively. Again this allows students to build off of each other’s ideas and be inventive.

I plan to determine my success by the individual growth of my students. I am looking for improvement academically and socially. By implementing a liberating structure in the classroom I know that students will be able to improve in confidence as well as academics.