Jean Kayira

Core Faculty
Department of Environmental Studies

Teaching Philosophy

Guiding me in my approach to teaching and learning is the view that knowledge is socially constructed thus needs on-going cultural examination. Pedagogy that takes this into consideration, as Leitch (1996) suggests, “stresses critique and invention rather than techniques of knowledge transmission and discipline…It seeks to empower students to interrogate representations of subjectivity and society” (p. 139). One of the best ways for students to learn how to critically analyze issues is by interacting and doing. I do this by encouraging discussion and dialogue. I ask questions and encourage students to ask questions themselves. In the discussion of reading materials I encourage students to look beyond what is presented and explore what is silent. I am steered by Kumashiro's (2009) point that “Common sense is not what should shape educational reform or curriculum design; it is what needs to be examined and challenged” (p. xxvi).  Thus I encourage students to question cherished beliefs and assumptions. I do not end with just deconstructing common sense but encourage students to go farther and ask “now that we know what is assumed in the common sense, what can we do?”

I also encourage experiential learning. I usually engage my students in very hands-on ways often out in the community for more meaningful and engaged learning. Another important consideration in my teaching is making the classroom a place where students can feel comfortable enough to share their opinions and voice their concerns. I encourage students to come forward and talk with me if they need help understanding what we are learning in class. I encourage them to make use of office hours as well as electronic communication. I also encourage respect for other people and their views so that students feel free to contribute and not fear they will be judged for having different viewpoints. In addition, I try to relate to students by sharing my stories and experiences.

I vary my teaching strategies to carter to the different learning styles of my students. For example I have promoted both individual learning through personal reflections as well as collaborative learning through seminars to promote the development of communities of practice (Lave & Wegner, 1991) through the assignments.

I am always trying to become a more effective teacher. I do this by collecting feedback from my students regularly and adapting my teaching accordingly. I also stay current with my topic area by attending and presenting at appropriate conferences.