Imagine teaching the same class for decades. Only it wouldn’t really be the same class. Each set of students would bring their own questions, prior learning, and backgrounds. In this series of videos, Dr. Vince Gil shares about his experience teaching Vanguard’s human sexuality class for all those years and what he learned in the process.
Early Days of Teaching
Vince had just finished his Ph.D. and got started in teaching in the context of higher education. He recognized that he wasn’t connecting with his students in the way he wanted. Vince stresses that most faculty do not receive formal training in teaching, though things are getting better on that front in recent years. The importance of reflecting on how we are coming across as teachers is stressed and ways to better engage our students.
Approaches to Getting Students Engaged
There are several approaches that faculty can use to engage students. First, knowing your audience can be helpful, along with recognizing the need to gain their attention in creative ways. Vince shares about his last class and how emotional it was for him. He wanted it to be special for those students and make it more personal than he might have otherwise. We can all bring this energy into each of our classes and make the times in class more memorable for students.
The Element of Trust
Trust is an essential element to learning. It was always essential for Vince to create a culture in which students felt comfortable sharing their views and asking questions that were hard for them to share. One technique is to first acknowledge the discomfort that is present in the class. Vince then recommends giving students language to use to discuss the topic in helpful ways.
Learning Beyond the Classroom
Our roles as teachers go well beyond what happens in a classroom. Vince shares about the aspect of teaching that involves mentoring. When we teach well, we extend the learning and the relationships beyond formal classes. In the Christian university context, we are able to engage with different levels of a person and explore their spiritual life, in addition to the other aspects of their learning.
Vince shares how Dr. Miki Gil, his wife, has been such an influence in his teaching. One way that she had an impact was to stress the importance of assessment and crafting assignments that are geared toward the learning outcomes of a given course. He also describes how our colleagues who have studied education can be useful in being more effective in our teaching. Finally, he talks about the power of admitting to our students when we don’t have the answers.
When Things Get Hard
One thing we can predict about our lives is that we will experience change. Sometimes those unpredictable turns can be incredibly challenging. Vince shares the ways he has approached difficult times and the pressures of being a professor.
Lifelong Learning as Foundational
Vince considers himself a lifelong learner and not one who has ever obtained true teaching excellence. He resists perceiving himself that way, lest he lose the focus on always improving. He emphasizes the ways in which developing critical thinking in our students is essential.