MERLOT Voices

Putting Educational Innovations into Practice.

Garrett Benjamin
  • Clovis, CA
  • United States
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Profile Information

Are you a member of MERLOT (www.merlot.org)?
Yes
If you are a MERLOT member please enter the link to your MERLOT profile here.
http://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMember.htm?id=363347
Have you used a learning material from MERLOT in your teaching?
Yes
Describe your role in education
Credential Student at the California State University Fresno

My teaching Philosophy

My goal as a teacher is to inspire and challenge students to work harder and achieve more than they may think is possible by creating an environment in which they are both motivated to learn and provided with the opportunity to learn. I became a teacher because I wanted to share my knowledge of science and research with others. By bringing energy and enthusiasm to the classroom, I encourage students to commit themselves to practices of lifelong learning and exhibit my own dedication to the same principle.

As an instructor of biological science courses, my job extends far beyond the realm of science textbooks and I help students develop tools for reading, analyzing, thinking, and writing which will aid them throughout college and after graduation. In practice, to meet these responsibilities, I focus on particular goals: to set an example of effort, energy, and interest in the subject matter and in each individual student’s progress; to create a positive learning environment for all students; to clearly present students’ responsibilities for the course; to provide specific and timely feedback to students’ work; and, to enable students to analyze and interpret texts by providing supporting evidence. These goals best represent my teaching philosophy.

In order to help increase students’ level of interest in the subject matter, I focus on exhibiting my own genuine enthusiasm for science. My enthusiasm may help motivate students to invest more time and energy in course work. As I plan classes, I enjoy finding different ways to present material in order to stimulate thought and discussion. In order to maintain student interest and appeal to different learning styles, I incorporate lectures, independent work, and work groups. I also believe that my demonstrated respect for each student as an individual increases his or her desire to take an active part in the class. It is important for me to learn and use students’ names early in the course and to learn information such as major and minor fields of study; these are subtle yet concrete indications to students that they are the focus of the course.

Being that I am in the science field I think students should learn both independent and interdependent analysis of scientific data. In order to accomplish this I use known experiments to first challenge the class as a whole and allow for them to communicate with each other, then to achieve the former I ask for independent write- ups and analysis of data. I also focus on developing and reinforcing discussion skills. Since discussing science is central to active learning, at the beginning of each course I invite students to join me in creating a class environment, which encourages all students to participate. Throughout the term I continuously pose questions to the students and incorporate the questions into the lectures. This allows me to respond to each students’ idea separately and to assess their knowledge and motivation, in order to reach each one on a personal level.

In order to explain the emphasis I place upon learning discussion techniques, I underscore the importance of each individual’s contribution. The questions, ideas, and analyses of one student will enhance the learning of another. This is especially true in classes where the students represent a diversity of life experience, heritage, and linguistic background. When shared in the classroom, different ideas and understandings of science can enhance everyone’s education. This emphasis on discussion makes the classroom student-centered. Rather than seeing me as the repository of all knowledge, students understand their own ability to learn through trial and error, and also recognize that each of us has insights which may help others to understand.

A positive learning environment demands that my actions and words encourage student questions both within class and during scheduled office hours or other appointments. For many students, approaching a teacher with a question at any time may be intimidating. I frequently remind students that my role is to assist them. I encourage students to utilize office hours or to make an appointment outside of these times to discuss questions or concerns, responses to texts, or difficulties they face in the classes content. Whenever possible, I subtly approach an individual and develop a one on one discussion with them, a positive experience in this situation may help a student to see the ease with which one can approach instructors.

In order for students to be motivated to maintain this active involvement it is important for me to present their responsibilities clearly and to provide pertinent feedback to their work. To this end, I include on my syllabi the relative weights of each assignment and the grading scale that will be used. Additionally, I devise and use a point system for grading which includes assignment-specific grading rubrics. These rubrics provide a concrete guideline of the aspects students need to pay attention to their studies. The number of points allotted to a particular category changes for each paper, reinforcing that as we progress through the term we are working on different skills; for example, while having good science vocabulary is always important, the ability to integrate and analyze source material may be more important in later assignments.

Finally, to help students better understand the test material I believe in dividing the test into many types of questions is useful. Some students do better at matching while some find multiple choice to be easier. To help discern the knowledge of the students I feel that having 4 parts to an exam may are helpful. These four parts will are matching, multiple choice, fill in the blank and essay or short answer.

The pursuit of these specific goals has become an integral part of my teaching philosophy. I acknowledge to students that I expect a great deal of commitment and effort from them; in return, I tell them that I expect the same level of dedication from myself. I am dedicated to continuing my development as an effective teacher. This desire is fueled by my own curiosity, love of learning, and vision of the infinite potential for growth within each of us.

Comment Wall (6 comments)

At 6:57pm on March 2, 2009, Jacky Flint said…
Hi Friend. So I think this merlot voices thing is really cool. See you in class...mmm pizza.
At 10:41pm on March 10, 2009, David Andrews said…
Garrett,

I am delighted that you will be an active member of our online learning community. In order for such a community to thrive it takes enthusiasm and commitment. You have both. I look forward to your contributions in the years ahead.

Dr. Andrews
At 9:52am on June 19, 2009, Jessica Hernon said…
Hey Jaime wanted me to see if you could upload your pictures from the lab that you are working at, the ones on facebook, to MERLOT. We all thought it would be cool if the MERLOT community could see what the program is like and what you are involved in over there.
At 5:05pm on June 19, 2009, Jessica Hernon said…
I'm not exactly sure but I think you could at post a link straight to the pictures on the message board, that way it would email everyone that you posted something and everyone could look at them.
At 1:25pm on July 28, 2009, Jacky Flint said…
Hey Garrett, I was just curious how the STAR program is going? I've been thinking about applying for next summer, just wanted to pick your brain a little. See you in the fall.
At 8:20pm on January 8, 2010, Kaitlyn Fiechtner said…
so...I was reading the STAR abstracts, and I stumbled upon yours. And, I have to say, not only does that sound really cool, but yours was the most readable of all the others. LOL. How did you like it?

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