Teaching at the college and graduate level may seem inherently different from teaching children, however the need for differentiation of approach, content, medium and outcomes are the same. As such I design and present my undergraduate and graduate courses similarly to how I approached classroom teaching. As an educator I focus heavily on integrating constructivist and research-based teaching methodologies such as Universal Design for Learning (UDL), descriptive inquiry and Translanguaging into my practice. The reason for this is two fold: ensure that all students have an opportunity to learn and model diverse teaching practices that teaching candidates can use in their own classrooms.
In keeping with the core tenets of UDL, I make sure that each of my courses offers multiple means of engagement and representation as well as multiple means of action and expression. When teaching Methods and Research in Teaching English Language Arts to Emergent Bilingual Students at Brooklyn College I diversified my teaching in various ways. For example, I provided readings at different levels of complexity – making it accessible for students who were emergent bilinguals. I also used multimodal platforms such as videos, audio recordings and images and would also provide students with multiple opportunities to ask questions and to discuss complex ideas with partners or in small groups. Additionally, I would include a question and answer segment at the beginning and end of each session. To ensure that students were able to use all of their resources, students were given opportunities to share what they have learned through varying mediums such as writing a paper, composing a film, giving a presentation and modeling a lesson. Students should also be given an opportunity to use all of their linguistic resources as such they were able to use their home language to access information, discuss content and to exhibit their learning. This is particularly important in courses that address the needs of multilingual students and bilingual education concepts. Lastly, I have appropriate accommodations and modifications available for adult students with disabilities whether that means additional time to complete an assignment or modified criteria, dependent on each individual student’s needs.
In addition to the aforementioned considerations, I structure instructional sessions similarly to mini-lessons: a brief lecture, an interactive whole group activity or partner work and a closing discussion section. There may also be independent work time during which I would check in with individual students to offer support. These methods are incredibly effective at maintaining student interest particularly during long academic sessions like the intensive courses I taught at Hunter College. The Issues in Teaching English Second Language Learners with Special Education Needs course was a one-credit course that took place across two eight-hour sessions during weekend days two weeks apart. Teaching courses during the weekends can make it particularly difficult to maintain student engagement. However, I made sure that the sessions were as interactive as possible. In addition to my typical teaching structures I included games, multiple group configurations, frequent breaks, and close readings. This ensured that students had many opportunities to learn from me, from the materials and from each other.
While at Montclair State University, I have taught various courses and have had the opportunity to develop two. In the first course I designed, Curriculum and Pedagogy in Inclusive Early Childhood Classroom, was able to integrate sessions during which students would be exposed to the descriptive processes, others were they would practice the processes as well as assignments that allowed students to use their new skills in the real world context. In this course, I drew connections between the theories that undergird descriptive inquiry and early childhood education, and the practical applications of classroom assessment within these settings. I also was able to present pre-service teachers to a practice that will support them regardless of the population they work with. As such, I was preparing future public school teachers in a progressive practice that builds on student strength while developing teacher inquiry. I am hopeful that this introduction will become a first step in a lifelong appreciation of the processes as they were for me when I was a teacher education student. In the second course, Perspectives and Theories at the Intersection of Language Learning and Disability, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a colleague and develop a course in which we not only were able to present the needs of emergent bilingual students with disabilities as a whole but were also able to model the practice of co-teaching. While inclusive education is growing, many pre-service teachers enter the field having limited experiences with co-teaching. By modeling this type of classroom we aim to present the students with the benefits of coteaching in a low stakes situation where they feel able to ask questions about how we plan, how we distribute labor, how we decide our instructional models and very importantly, how we resolve disagreements. I have also made changes to the courses I adopted. One of the major contributions I have made to those courses has been to introduce more and more local scholarship as well as work from scholars of color and scholars with disabilities.
By using a constructivist approach, I ensure that my teaching is inherently inclusive, experiential and participatory. This is particularly critical within teacher preparation programs because beyond increasing learning for the students themselves it also encourages teacher-candidates to be inclusive in their own classrooms while providing them with the examples needed to build their own practice. Moreover, these practices have resulted in positive feedback from both students and supervisory faculty.