I have been involved with education most of my life. I have been a student and a teacher, a researcher and a practitioner, a counsellor and a counselee, an experimenter and a mentor. As a teenager I developed my own environmental education program for elementary school children and delivered it in classrooms throughout the city. In my late teens and early twenties, I facilitated the integration of special needs children into mainstream education programs and taught leadership and skill building in programs centred on wilderness experiences. These early experiences began my involvement with (and my love of) knowledge-sharing and personal development that I have continued throughout my life, in one form or another, from the wilderness to the city, from imagining to making, from listening to doing, from exploring to demonstrating, to being deeply engaged as both student and mentor.
Over the years, I have strived to bring the following essential elements to the pedagogical experiences that I both design and lead:
1) Self-reflexivity and criticality
Questions are at the foundation of learning, and I believe learning to ask good questions of oneself and of the world around you leads to a richer learning environment both at an intellectual and practical level. In my teaching, I have employed a number of different approaches and exercises to encourage students to develop the craft of questioning critically. Some examples include:
2) Dialogue and participation
Dialogue in the process of learning offers the students the opportunity to engage and question the material, but also opens up opportunities for discovery and participation.
3) Understanding and managing expectations
Many conflicts arise from differences in expectations. Managing expectations refers both to communicating the expectations I may have of the students, but also understanding and managing the expectations they have of their learning environment and outcomes. There is always a diversity of expectations from the students, including achieving expected grades, learning new skills, being challenged, or simply being left to work independently.
4) Poetic Diversions
As a compliment to the clarity and structure I strive to provide, I also feel that both art and design education should be interwoven with poetic experiences. The knowledge we seek and the practice we share rarely arrives at answers through straight lines and purely instrumental thinking and as educators if we expect the students to engage in the making of poetic it is important to ask how we invite the poetic dimension to our teaching.