Teachers and students enter into a relationship of shared responsibility when a course begins. Brian views his responsibility as providing students with clear objectives for learning, including well-defined learning outcomes, manageable course components, and clearly defined assessment techniques.
After providing students with a clear framework for the course components, the teacher’s role moves on to becoming one of helping students achieve increased skills in critical thinking, problem analysis, and problem solving. In addition, the teacher has a responsibility to themselves in staying current in subject content matter, connecting course content to relevant emergent research. Brian approaches involvement in professional associations as a means to provide students with the most current perspectives on the field.
Brian’s style has been described as quasi-socratic, based on Brian’s use of probing questions to spur discussion. Recognizing, though, that people process and learn in different ways, Brian takes varied approaches to teaching. This involves a blending of lecture-discussion, pure discussion, group activity, and student-led discussion sessions. As a means to aid students in increasing their abilities in critical thinking, active discussion provides opportunities for students to exchange ideas and challenge thinking. Students are more likely to relate to course content if they are able to make a connection between the content and their own life experiences. As reflected elsewhere on this website, Brian models this through his own storytelling.
Diversity in education
Just as students can learn a great deal from content areas unfamiliar to them, so too can they learn from differences in fellow students and instructors. Diversity by itself may not provide for sharing of ideas from varying viewpoints, but teachers can promote sharing from diverse viewpoints and backgrounds by providing an environment safe for sharing and disclosure by students. Brian works to promote such an environment by communicating a set of ground rules based in mutual respect and democratic participation. This approach to a democratic learning environment is reinforced regularly through facilitation of discussions and exploring various approaches to help students connect with each other and the course content.
Brian works toward continuous improvements in teaching, whether in adjusting course content, student assessments or course materials. Efforts to improve his teaching include a mixture of formal feedback and review, anonymous check-ins, and encouraging direct student feedback. Teaching involves more than meeting students where they are, but providing them with opportunities to grow and learn beyond what they currently recognize as their boundaries. Brian believes that when students cross their perceived boundaries, learning truly begins.
Courses Brian teaches
Brian regularly teaches courses on assessment, research methods, college students in the United States, student development theory, student diversity, and organization and administration. He has also previously taught courses on how higher education is portrayed in popular media. Regardless of the course content, Brian challenges students to make connections to big-picture issues, especially social justice. The learning that Brian sees coming out of the courses he teaches is not limited to what’s printed in assigned readings, but in the ways students are able to synthesize concepts and ideas.