Michelle Costello


Teaching Philosophy Statement

In my varied experiences with teaching I have learned a great deal about myself as a teacher and even more about my students and how they learn. In my current role as a librarian, I may be limited in my interactions with students in the classroom (due to one-shot lessons being the norm); however the information literacy standards (used by instruction librarians and created by The Association of College and Research Libraries) align well with my beliefs as a teacher. Based on my diverse experiences and the standards, I am able to outline my goals and objectives as a teacher in the following ways:
• To give students a voice and create a sense of empowerment that encourages accountability and responsibility The information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed

• To foster independence through critical thinking and transference of skills  The information literate student evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system

• To promote enthusiasm for learning  The information literate student, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose

I believe that all students should have a voice in their educational experiences and processes. They should play an active role in their learning and not be passive, as teachers, parents, and administrators dictate their paths. Students need to be empowered in their learning; at the very least they should have a clear understanding of what they are expected to know. I think it is important to be honest with your students and share your expectations and goals with them directly. I always reveal my learning objectives to my students, either verbally or in a written format (e.g. Google Doc, Whiteboard). I also let my students know that even though I have set objectives and goals, I am there to help and to change directions based upon their needs. The best piece of advice I received from a fellow educator was “our job as teachers is to teach, but students have a job as well – to learn” (personal communication, 1985). This comment has resonated with me throughout my career and I always strive to convey to my students that they need to be active participants and to voice when they need assistance. If students are unaware of what they need to complete assignments, projects, or papers they are less likely to be engaged and it will be difficult to foster accountability. I give many opportunities for students to ask questions throughout the lesson, not just at the end. I will also use alternative (anonymous) means such as Google Docs or polling software to make sure that all students have an opportunity to share their thoughts.

Since I generally only see students once, it is crucial that the information and skills I teach stays with these students; these learnings are meant to be used throughout the students’ academic career. It is important that I encourage critical thinking and help students to think beyond what we are learning in an isolated lesson. I believe that in order for students to be critical thinkers, they must be fully engaged in the lesson. I limit my lectures to key concepts and ideas and give them multiple opportunities to explore what we are learning. If the lesson is focused on finding scholarly articles, then the students will need to search for these articles and then showcase their findings. If students are exploring resources for creating lesson plans, they need to find and locate material for the lessons. In order to assess their understanding of the content, they should be able to articulate what they have found (e.g. student presentations, worksheets, take away assessments). In addition, it is important for students to describe how they will use what they have learned in future endeavors (transference of skills). This is accomplished though reflections and finding information and sources that go beyond what was learned in class.

The connecting piece, and the most important of my beliefs, is making sure that students are motivated, enthusiastic, and interested in what they are learning. This can be accomplished by giving them a voice and by making sure that they see how what they are learning can be applied to new situations. But more importantly, students should enjoy what they are doing and (when possible) have fun. I am a firm believer in creating a warm and playful atmosphere in my classroom. I want students to feel comfortable expressing themselves and to ask questions (even questioning what they are learning). It may be risky to add playfulness to a class because students may at first feel confused or hesitant to participate; however, by being open and clear with expectations and objectives, students can be free to be creative. I have added the element of “fun” through non-conventional items and ideas (e.g. bringing in flan as a lesson plan inspiration, playing copyright and literacy games, asking students to describe their favorite movie through images). Students are immersed in this creative environment and through instructor modeling see examples of how to be playful and have fun. It is more difficult to assess motivation and enthusiasm; however, I do occasionally implement surveys to gauge student interest as well as their understanding of the content. I use this data to make changes to my lessons and improve my teaching.

I am passionate about my teaching and immensely enjoy working with students. I have learned a great deal about student learning and expectations throughout the years and have adjusted my teaching based upon those experiences. I know that it is an unreasonable goal to expect to reach and engage every student; however, I will continue to try to motivate and inspire them and in the process continue my own life-long learning.

For additional information on my work in the Fellows Program, please see my report on Collaborative Teaching in an Undergraduate Education Methods Course.

ACRL. (2000). Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/informationliteracycompetency