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The Bridge: Teaching Philosophy to Classroom Style to Community Partners

Posted by Stephen Lemire on February 2, 2012 at 1:20 PM

In an earlier blog, “Many Adult Students Need Learn but One Lesson”, I outlined my experience working with graduate students for the past 25 years. I described how a typical student has been an experienced medical clinician (RN, technologist) who was now earning a Master’s Degree to gain career advancement into a management role.
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I also wrote of my philosophy: to create an environment where students are encouraged to share their professional experiences; to allow students the opportunity to process the impact of what is discussed and apply it to their workplace; to challenge students to develop their own concepts, support their own ideas, and learn from each other. I know this philosophy has an impact when a student begins to think less about process (like a clinician) and more about outcome (like a manager).
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What has influenced my classroom style and how has it evolved over time? From the outset my goal was to construct an environment that borrowed many of the most effective elements from the instructors that I had as a graduate and college student. This foundation has since been most influenced by what I’ve learned from my students. Notably, if I am successful, I can tap into the wealth of information students carry and promote a way that they can teach one another through sharing of experiences, stories, practice styles, and lessons learned.
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I do not require the use of textbooks in my courses as they become outdated quickly and are a tremendous financial burden on students. Instead, I provide links to readings, cases, and reports on a timely basis. The projects that I assign, and the exams that I give, are not based on information that students are expected to memorize, but rather, on scenarios in which the students must develop their own ideas and are challenged to support them.
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In each class I provide an agenda and set of objectives, as my goal is to facilitate as if in a business meeting. I try to keep the session crisp with short bursts of structured lecture interspersed with abundant group discussion, reviews of cases examples, and role playing of management exercises. I also add a segment called “Real Life Stuff” in which I outline non-curricular items such as resume writing, interviewing techniques, business social protocol, professional networking, etc. My students also find that their in-class assignments are graded with an A, B, C, or F with the “F” standing for “Fluff”. I encourage them to be direct, succinct, and clear in all oral and written business communications.
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Additionally, I believe that a large part of a student’s education needs to take place in the community – at internships and work-study programs. Students need practical hands-on experiences to apply what is discussed in the classroom to understand the application of the structured learning.
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A student’s overall education, though the responsibility of the academic institution and its instructors, is best served through a partnership with the region’s employers who can provide curricular input, at-work training (e.g. internships), and, ultimately, gainful employment. The critical component of this relationship is the internship so that, among many things, the student may learn practical hands-on applications while the employer may assess the student’s potential employability and, ideally, offer the student a full-time position upon graduation.
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Based on objective evaluations and feedback from students, my teaching philosophy coupled with my classroom style has been effective. I believe that this, along with partnerships with employers to provide internships, has provided students with many tools to succeed.
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I’m about to embark into the world of online teaching. I’m excited about learning new skills and using different technology to educate students. My challenge will be to create a different classroom style in this forum so that it remains the bridge between my teaching philosophy and my conviction that employers are pivotal to train the workforce.
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I’m curious about the transition that others have gone through. If you have shifted to online teaching after a long career in the classroom, what has been your experience?
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Categories: Education, Management, Odds & Ends

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