I believe learning occurs through critical thinking, problem solving, and application of known information. Particularly in a field like counseling, challenging unexamined beliefs is essential for growth and development. My role as an instructor is to facilitate learning by giving students a space conducive to their being able to explore ideas and engage with new content. Much as with counseling, I believe teaching works best when the factors for successful change and growth are present for students to progress naturally through their learning process. I encourage students to connect material to their own experiences and facilitate discussions that allow for the connection of similar information and themes as well as clear differentiation of discrete topics.
I find it important to solicit feedback and allow students to have a voice in the classroom. It is also important to collaboratively establish norms for a learning environment that is safe for students, but where students can be challenged. Particularly as counselors in training, being exposed to ideas about multicultural work and counseling theories may challenge currently held beliefs and may be uncomfortable or feel threatening. Challenging these unexamined beliefs is essential for growth and development. I believe students do not always have to be comfortable with the material, but should be secure in a respectful, accessible learning environment.
For me this means that I design in class activities with essential universal design ideas in mind, and this includes making sure that there are a variety of types of assessments so that students who learn or better engage in different ways like writing vs presenting materials have equal opportunities to engage in ways that work for them. A unique strength I bring to teaching is my use of technology and accessibility tools and techniques. I choose physically accessible activities, for example avoiding privilege walks and instead doing privilege sales. I implement tools like live closed captioning, A.I. transcription of videos, availability of materials digitally and via hard copies, and encourage use of personal technology in class as an accessibility support. In this way I model a respectful approach to diversity for my students and normalize assistive technology and disability culture, which is pivotal for rehabilitation instruction as well as disability awareness and multicultural competence for all counseling specialities.
Outside of the classroom, I believe being available during office hours or being very engaged in an online setting is necessary (such as sending reminders, checking in with students who are absent from the online environment) is essential and signals to students they are valued. My intent is that this increases my student’s comfort with seeking help for more individual needs so that I can improve my instruction and implement new strategies based on student needs. My preparation for instruction, staying apprised of current events globally and related to the mental health profession, and continuing my development as a clinician are all also important aspects of my teaching. This allows me to revise and update content to be relevant and implement student feedback. It also models for my students the professional identity of counselors and that we are obligated to continue to broaden our scope of practice and be aware of situations and events that may impact our clients.
The main way my approach to teaching has changed as a counselor educator in training is that I began thinking that the role of an instructor was to convey knowledge and the job of students was to comprehend it. I now see instruction as a much more collaborative process of co-creation and the role of the instructor is to continually remove barriers to that process.