How I learn, how I teach

You have now read about, reflected on, and discussed your Personal Learning Environment. You have also read about and reflected on differences between expert and novice learners. For our final discussion this week, I’d like you to describe how you learn, how you teach, and I’d like you to articulate why you teach in the way you do? Are there connections? What are they? Lastly, I’d like to challenge you to limit your answers to no more than 3 paragraphs. This doesn’t have to be formal. What I’m looking for here is introspection and reflection.


I think I have a very accommodating personality. I don’t have one passion that drives who I am or what I do. I have a variety of interests and I’m always up for something new, although I may not be the one to instigate the idea. I think this characteristic follows me into my learning. I have a general understanding of a lot of things. I don’t feel I have an expertise, I have a superficial understanding of some things I should probably be working harder to understand and I feel I have a limited vocabulary. Sometimes, I can be a very lazy learner. If I’m not challenged, depending on what else is going on in my life, I will try to skirt by with the minimum effort. If I’m challenged, as long as I’m given some guidelines so that I don’t get too distracted, I will put in 110%. I’m also an active learner. Learning by doing helps me to create patterns and develop a purpose that helps me remember. Thinking back on some of my first classes in college where the model of assessment was 1) showing up for class, 2) a mid-term and a final multiple choice exam, I received very poor grades on some fundamental courses that could (and should) have had a greater impact on the outcome of my baccalaureate experience. I was never required or encouraged to speak out in class and I was never given the opportunity (or forced) to express my understanding of individual themes or topics that were presented. It was straight memorization, and I was never good at that. However, going back to that lazy learner idea, I could also have taken charge of my own understanding and pushed myself to make sense of things on my own. If only I knew then what I know (or think I know) now.

I don’t think I could ever teach face-to-face in the classroom because I do not think fast on my feet. I feel awkward speaking in front of people and I feel I need a lot of preparation when presenting to a group. I feel I’m getting better at it, but I am much more comfortable teaching in an online environment. I try to teach with an active teaching style by providing some parameters to guide learning, but to provide activities and assessments that allow students to be creative and determine how much to push themselves. I try to balance giving all the answers with giving students the opportunity to explore on their own to find the answers. Since it is a design class, there is a lot of room for personal preference in presenting projects, so sometimes that can be difficult to assess and to grade. I’ve had to create rubrics for myself but I’ve chosen not to share them with students because I don’t want students to create something based on parameters. I usually list out the specific details I’m looking for, like dimension, specific tools students should use (like type on a path or creating a drawing with the pen tool) or the types of color mode (spot vs. process), but I also want to give students freedom to show their creative side. The book I’ve chosen for the course takes students through a series of steps to produce a final product. There are also videos that go along with the text for demonstrations. I supplement that text with my insights other examples about how a feature of the software has been used in different final products.

I think there is a direct connection between the way I teach and the way that I learn. It is a combination of doing and being forced to articulate the choices that I’ve made to show greater understanding. As a skills-based course, it is easy to push buttons and create elements with a variety of effects, but that doesn’t mean that as a designer you use everything you’re capable of doing in one product. You need to know how to edit yourself and that each element must have a purpose. Yes, you probably have access to 100s of typefaces installed in your font library, but you don’t use all of them at the same time. Another aspect of learning and understanding about design is to be able to give someone else constructive feedback in making their work better. Evaluating and giving feedback can be difficult to do at first but in the end, it can help your own work as you look more critically at it. I also have scaffolded the learning so that one unit leads into the other. Student assessments are not limited to one or two large projects, but rather the improvement students made over time.  I think if I were taking a skills-based class like my own, I would enjoy the challenge of learning the software along with the reasons for making the choices that I make.

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One thought on “How I learn, how I teach

  1. Pingback: Teaching and Learning Philosophy Reflection – Module 12 | heidi olsONID

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