LESSONS LEARNED AS A TUTOR
During my employ as a private tutor, it became evident to me that engaging the student’s interest and attention was paramount to creating a lesson that would leave a lasting impression. I also observed that all students, regardless of age, culture and range of abilities, learn differently. Therefore, I approach teaching a course in two ways. First, I use a process-learning strategy to create my courses so that students are internalizing information and relating that information to valuable applied skill sets which are systematically built during the course of the semester. Then, I work to create a classroom environment that is stimulating to the senses, incorporates a variety of mediums and fosters the application of the lesson material in a fun, interactive and worth-while way.
I have had the opportunity to design and teach a wide variety of communication courses while employed at SUNY Buffalo, Singapore Institute of Management and SUNY Fredonia.
Principles of Communication (COMM101; COM101) introduces students to the main ideas in communication study, from history and theory, to verbal and nonverbal communication, to exploration of applications including those in group, intercultural, organizational and healthcare settings. Business Communication (COMM235; COM317) guides students through the process of communicating clearly and completely in a business setting through the creation of documents ranging from business plans to resumes and cover letters. Principles and Methods of Interviewing (COM223) enables students to understand and apply the theory, practice and techniques required to participate in an assortment of interview situations, as either the interviewer or the interviewee. Survey of Mass Communication (COM240) takes a holistic approach to the study of mass communication by examining historical developments, past and present sociological effects and future advancements of the field. Written Communication (COM300) provides students with a foundation in the theory, practice and application of skills required to think and write critically, efficiently and fluidly. Small Group Communication (COMM301) coaches students through an understanding of self, others, and what it really means to be a member of a group. Leadership, teamwork and conflict management are emphasized. Public Speaking (COM326) guides students through the emotional and organizational development required to create and deliver a well-executed speech. Communication Theory (COM337) presents seminal theories of communication studies through the examination of each theory's history, application in real-world scenarios, contemporary views and critiques. Public Relations (COM441) presents students with the history of public relations, past and current cases, hands-on analysis of crises, exploration of ethics, creation of materials including the media kit, as well as perspective-taking exercises from varying vantage points including those of professionals in public relations, marketing and media.
While I use PowerPoint to aid in disseminating information during lectures, I believe that slides must be visually stimulating in order to keep the mind engaged. When PowerPoint slides are available from publishers of textbooks I'm using in the class, I use the slides as an outline, and from there I adapt the slide content, appearance and presentation to my teaching style. I start by creating my own templates using colors, interesting textures and contemporary images from sources including popular album art and designers to create a background that is interesting yet not distracting.
In addition to adding content, I also add images that represent the topics being introduced, which I usually animate for visual appeal and to control how much information is presented at once. Some images coordinate with an anecdote that connects to the material; others are there for pure illustrative reasons; still others simply provide a comedic break. I have received positive feedback from my students indicating that this presentation technique keeps the lectures “interesting,” “fun” and “not boring.”
Whenever possible, I use short video clips to provide an entertaining contextual example of a topic. Drawing from sources including popular sitcoms, crime dramas, movies and viral videos and memes, these multimedia clips help make an abstract concept relevant and concrete.
Click on the links below to view a sample slide presentation from some courses I've taught. For this website, the slideshows have been rendered in video form in order to ensure automatic video clip playback and slide animation. At any time, the video can be paused to view a slide for a longer period of time.
From the time students enter the classroom until they have gathered their belongings and left, I have music playing at low levels through the room speakers. Using Pandora Radio or my own music collection housed on Google Music (which contains many student-suggested artists) students volunteer names of songs they enjoy, and a different student’s favorite music is played every session. Background music is an aspect of my teaching style on which I have received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Students tell me that music being played at soft levels keeps them “alert,” “awake” and “interested.” Students of the Millennial Generation have grown up with computer-driven electronics as an indivisible part of their daily lives. By providing this background music, I feel that students of this age are more likely to feel comfortable, relaxed, engaged and open.
To listen to a sample of music I might use before, during, and after classes, please click the links below. (These are playlists that I created expressly for this website; in the classroom I use Pandora or my own Google Music playlist. NOTE: The playlist will automatically progress through the 9 songs I've selected if it is allowed to play continuously; the website 8tracks will only allow 3 "skips" per hour before moving on to someone else's playlist!)
Socializing before class starts and during breaks is encouraged so that students can get to know each other. By requesting them to work together in pairs or small groups nearly every class, they are also given opportunities to interact. Selecting the music to be played in the classroom gives students a sense of direct impact on the classroom environment, and also creates a mode of self-expression as well as a ready-made ice-breaker for conversation with their peers.
I encourage students to not only ask and answer questions during lectures, but also to volunteer stories and anecdotes from their own lives that might be relevant to the material. Not only does this make for a more entertaining, interesting and dynamic class time, but I have observed that through these methods of engaging students, they seem more willing to participate throughout the semester.
APPLICATION AND ASSESSMENT
I design my courses in such a way that application assignments, in-class activities, discussion and classroom participation formulate the majority of the final grade, rather than solely basing grades on tests, quizzes or exams. It is my belief that by building on each topic with an activity or an application assignment, students will retain progressive amounts of information that ultimately comes together to formulate a cumulative series of learning objectives.
Assignments are strictly limited in length, promoting efficient, condensed writing and responses. I create the assignment parameters in such a way that they can only be satisfied through the individual internalization, interpretation and application of the concepts learned in class.
I write exam and quiz questions to test students' abilities to apply material rather than recall it through rote memorization. I have received feedback from students that they "walk out of the test having learned something" and that the test questions are "helpful" and even "entertaining!"