Jasmin B. Cowin, Ed.D.
As a teacher and facilitator, I establish learning communities where we come to learn with each other and from each other in a collaborative process. Collaborative processes give rise to vibrant cultures of growth and development with the result of a harvest of student achievement filled with a growth mindset, mental flexibility, curiosity, risk taking and intrinsic motivation. My approach to teaching is student-centered with the aim to open the doors of knowledge not only empirically but emotionally as well. As a facilitator and ESL learner, I sat where my students sit today. Genuine sympathy and sincere empathy for their struggles, aspirations, successes and failures guide my teaching philosophy. My former ESL professor at Rice University (a life-time ago) gifted me her guiding quote on teaching ESL writing: Caelum video lussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultu (He bid them look at the sky and lift their faces to the stars.) Ovid.
Technology is changing the context of education. Cultivating digital literacy is an essential part of a writing course. In today’s workplace, digital literacy is essential. But teaching and learning should go beyond access to basic technology based tools. Students must learn to apply digital resources to creatively solve problems, produce innovative projects, and enhance communications to prepare for a career in any field. My writing courses encourage a dialogue between technological tools and students to achieve polished, in-depth pieces highlighting a mastery of analysis and form.
I reflected deeply on Driscoll’s (2000) definition of learning as “a persisting change in human performance or performance potential…[which] must come about as a result of the learner’s experience and interaction with the world” and rely on Siemens’s reflection (2005) on that definition; “[Driscoll’s] definition encompasses many of the attributes commonly associated with behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism – namely, learning as a lasting changed state (emotional, mental, physiological (i.e. skills)) brought about as a result of experiences and interactions with content or other people,” in the context of technology a modern, yet common sense approach in higher education classrooms. “Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilized,” and going on to say that, “the field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.”
Academic ability is not necessarily an indication of intelligence as talent is diverse. Often instructional methods are preoccupied with academic ability. I prefer a common-sense approach where the writer’s mind focuses on both the practical and analytical. Interactive, collaborative, and personalized instruction address the hopes and aspirations of nascent writers. I encourage diversity in writing with a broad curriculum to feed the spirit; writing about issues which resonate; fostering creativity in the writing process while embracing and consistently applying essential cornerstones of the writing process.
Beyond grammatical skills, writing a college-level essay requires the following: a thesis; factual support; and clear lines of logic to link the factual support into arguments either supporting or refuting the thesis. Regardless of the topic; from art to business, from journalism to international relations; any compelling essay will require these elements. Therefore, in our essays classes use Google based fact sheets to scaffold their arguments and delineate thinking in a clear, organized method. These personally developed Google instruments provide writing exercises through which students can concentrate on the logical components of the writing process by choosing relevant facts, analyzing them, and developing clear arguments based on such facts. This fosters a writing approach which lends itself to writing across disciplines. Our elevator pitches focus on the topic and infuse the course with real-life presentation experience using various technology suites while simultaneously fostering fluency, strong delivery and a sense of real-life application for ESL students.
The Experiential Learning Philosophy and authentic learning in a student-centered classroom are the cornerstones of my educational approach. My primary goals in teaching writing are: First, increasing students’ metacognitive awareness so that they better understand themselves as learners and enable students to take responsibility for their learning. Second, providing a clear lesson structure with objectives and aims for students. Third, improving students’ understanding of, and ability to accurately use English in speaking, writing and reading. My overarching goal is to develop communicative competence.
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