Denice Blair

I strive to blend content, pedagogical approaches, and learning tools to create a classroom atmosphere in which students are actively engaged, not only in constructing knowledge, but also in developing themselves as professionals who learn and teach creatively and critically.

My philosophy on teaching and learning is centered on three core values: development of effective learning, emphasis on relevance of learning and content through authentic activities, and pursuit of learning in environments outside the classroom.

To create an atmosphere where effective learning can occur, I emphasize cooperative learning processes, in which my students and I work together to advance our learning.  I share with students my belief that a class is a community, in which all its members are entitled to learn in a civil and mutually respectful atmosphere.  Our goal is to build this community through positive personal interactions.  I believe that participation has many forms, including being prepared for class, taking part in class discussions, working with others, and self-evaluation.  I encourage students to critically evaluate the materials available to them (such as textbooks, classroom discourse, and other resources), to think critically about multiple perspectives and to continually evaluate their own perspectives, and finally, to engage seriously in developing deep understandings of subject matter.  I see myself as a co-learner with students and as such, I have a responsibility to actively pursue these goals with them.

In my courses, I strive to incorporate principles of cognitive apprenticeship into my teaching by modeling professional activities in the classroom.  I use traditional classroom experiences, technology tools, and field trips to give students opportunities to work through new concepts and use newly acquired skills and information in addressing content.  I design innovative projects in which students will have authentic audiences for their work and develop skills and products of their work that benefit them academically and professionally.  Assessment is used to help students and me, as the teacher, gauge students’ improvement, in relation to objective standards and increases in individual competencies.  I prefer to use assessment structures that provide for revision and reevaluation, as these processes allow students not only to benefit from responding to constructive feedback but also to develop the good scholarly habits of continually evaluating and improving one’s own work.

I believe that teaching and learning happen in many contexts.  As a teacher-researcher whose work focuses on bridging informal and formal contexts, I provide opportunities for students to learn outside the classroom.  I use local museums as learning laboratories for students to explore content unavailable to them elsewhere.  Further, I view the Internet as an environment for learning and endeavor to help students see the educational potential of traditional online and Web 2.0 tools.  Additionally, I cultivate connections through service to local students, teachers, schools, and organizations, which helps me develop sensitivities to and understandings of social and cultural issues that affect my thinking as a teacher, scholar, and citizen.

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