My Teaching Philosophy

The communications revolution has resulted in a world that is changing at an ever-quickening pace. New ideas and innovations spread quickly, resulting in increasingly rapid cycles of technological change. These new technologies have also created an information revolution. Whereas data were once difficult, expensive and time-consuming to collect, we now have a data overload. The new challenge is to convert data into information. My goal as a teacher is to help my students learn to both adapt to change (i.e. apply their knowledge and skills to new and unexpected situations) and to derive information from data.

If they are to succeed in a fast-changing work environment, students must first and foremost learn how to teach themselves (i.e. to learn where and how to seek out the information that is necessary and relevant for solving the problem at hand). We can help students gain these skills by challenging them to address real-world problems in the classroom. Problem-solving activities encourage the student's active participation and engagement in mastering the course material, while also allowing the student to demonstrate their creativity. Including a group work component in my courses allows students to learn from each other, and develop interpersonal working skills and the ability to communicate clearly with others.

Students learn to derive information from data by thinking critically about how the data were collected and how to make sense of that data given what they already know about a phenomenon. My courses also include a significant individual writing component. Using writing as an evaluation tool (rather than merely exams) allows me to evaluate, test and help a student improve their critical thinking skills, which are essential for gleaning information from data. Writing assignments (particularly those that involve multiple evaluated drafts) require students to practice formulating questions and arguments and illustrate whether or not the student is thinking clearly about a topic.

In summary, the two most important things a teacher can do for a student is to help them learn "how to learn," and to learn how to think critically about problems and their potential solutions. A teacher will have more success in achieving these goals by encouraging students to actively participate in coursework that students find relevant to their own goals and interests.

My Teaching Portfolio and Publications

I recently completed a Graduate Certificate in University Teaching and Learning at UNSW. As a teacher who is interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), I have also begun to publish in the field of higher education research. I am involved in the INLT (International Network of Learning and Teaching in Geography) and HERODOT Network for Geography in Higher Education . I plan to prepare a teaching portfolio over the next year or so. Stay tuned for updates here.

A recent publication:

Scheyvens, R., Griffin, A. L., Jocoy, C., Liu, Y. and M. Bradford. (2008). “Experimenting with active learning: Dispelling the myths that perpetuate resistance.” Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 32(8): 51-69.