Kindness is not leniency; it’s the appreciation of others’ humanity. This guiding principle of my pedagogy has become especially pertinent as the switch to online courses (with its accompanying lack of socialization) causes some learners to fall into despair. In addition to curating sources and creating instructional content, I strive to provide both emotional and intellectual support to my students. One facet of that support is to teach in ways that are not performative, but genuine and based out of my lived experiences. I hope for students to relate to me as a person so that their personhood can also be made plain. The social nature of learning inspires me to encourage this dialog as a foundation for authentic experiences.
Kindness means keeping the needs of my audience at the forefront as I design and implement courses. This student-centered pedagogy positions the instructional process as a method for achieving set learning objectives, rather than passively transmitting a corpus of facts and ideas. Drawing a line from Dewey to the Constructivist ideals of today, I believe that the most effective forms of learning occur when students are engaged in active problem solving based on real-world situations that can personalize the topic of instruction. Whether in-person or online, maintaining a classroom environment that is conducive to learning includes being attentive to student needs.
Designing an instructional experience intended to satisfy a wide variety of learners requires extensive preparation, both on the topic being taught and the technology required to prepare and disseminate the related materials. It is my goal to deliver course content in multiple forms across multiple media, while striking a balance between development time and available resources.
To understand students’ perspective is no easy task. I am assisted in this effort by the lessons learned during my recent return to academia, which has left me with fresh realizations of the social dynamics of the classroom. My experience as the father of an eighteen-year-old provides additional useful insights, but most valuable of all has been the time I’ve spent instructing college courses (both in-person and virtual) over the last two decades. My extensive experience developing and delivering workshops and webinars to adult learners from industry also influences my pedagogy. Delivering short-form courses to motivated, engaged learners has given me a clear appreciation for the need to deliver tightly focused, effective instruction. Using skills built from developing hundreds of different customized learning experiences for the printing industry, I make it my mission to supply course readings and other materials in accessible formats.
Perhaps most importantly, I advocate that a pedagogy of kindness must also include the need to hold students accountable for obtaining the skills promised in the course syllabus. Instead of being punitive, it is my preference to offer multiple chances for those who are inclined to try again. If students can end the semester showing competence in the knowledge or skills the course was meant to impart, I believe their grades should reflect that victory.