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.
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.