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During my PhD studies in Education, I became aware of the difference between a student-centered vs teacher-centered approach to learning. As adult educators, I believe our challenges are to facilitate learning through active engagement of the student and incorporation of adult learning principles (andragogy) and cognitive psychology's findings of learning into a dynamic classroom environment.

Learning is an active process and a personal experience. My goal is to inspire and engage learners to find their path to a mutually desirable outcome. A good teacher creates memorable key components to clarify concepts and promote a progression toward comprehension and mastery. The experienced educator uses storytelling to elicit an affective response that motivates students to not just invest in the learning process, but to own it.

As a medical educator who is also a pediatric oncologist and bioethicist, I firmly believe that my purpose is to help develop life-long learners who are capable of fulfilling their ethical and professional obligations to provide just, compassionate, evidence-based healthcare to patients and families from diverse backgrounds. My educational philosophy emphasizes the idea of humility and respect for the limits of medical knowledge, and I evaluate my success as an educator by my ability to help students and trainees learn to recognize and acknowledge their own biases (including recognizing themselves and the healthcare system as products of culture) and to navigate the uncertainty, ambiguity and change inherent in contemporary medicine with humility and curiosity. I think that is important to allow learners to confront the real challenges and complexities of healthcare practice in safer or “brave” spaces, before they are faced with real patients and situations, and to encourage them from the beginning of professional training to develop the habits associated with excellent healthcare practitioners.

My philosophy of teaching and learning reflects my belief that education is optimized when it is student centered, dynamic, and highly interactive. It is similar to my philosophy of patient care that puts the patient (student) first, is participatory in nature (active learning), focuses on meaningful shared goals (learning objectives), and works to promote self efficacy (student affinity and ability for lifelong learning). I embrace formative feedback to identify "gaps" in didactic content knowledge, psychomotor skills, and communication skills, essential for success in health care.

Dr. Lauren Germain
Dr. Lauren Germain

“Knowledge” is being created more quickly than any person can fully learn, teach or use it. In this context, critical thinking, systems understanding, and teamwork are essential to education in all forms. As an educator, two of the most powerful tools we have are good questions and specific feedback to learners. As an assessment professional working in our health professions university, I believe that learner assessment and feedback are our responsibility not only to learners, but to society.

Students at Upstate are well-prepared, self-motivated, adult learners. As educators here, I feel that our first responsibility is to provide them with high-quality, well-organized materials - lectures, labs, small-group challenges, and more - to serve as springboards for their learning. Next, we cultivate a highly collaborative, interactive learning environment that encourages each learner to leverage the remarkable human resources available on campus. High on that list of remarkable resources are their fellow students. Many of our first-years have not previously had the experience of being surrounded by genuine intellectual peers and collaborators. We push them hard to build bridges to their peers that develop into long-term professional networks and enable them to become comfortable with the highly team-based modern medical workplace. It is an honor to be part of this process of personal and professional growth.

My major role is teaching students in a text-based, asynchronous, online learning environment. My goal of online teaching is to prepare the students to become self-motivated, lifelong learners. The online setting requires me to become a good coach, facilitator, and instructional designer who knows how to use emerging technologies innovatively in teaching. To help students construct their own learning in an online education setting, my philosophy of education is to guide students as a mentor rather than as a sage on the stage, based on the constructive learning theory. I strive to create a meaningful learning environment so that students can relate new information to the information that they already know. This understanding will allow students to use new evidence-based knowledge as a powerful tool to improve the quality of health care.  

True learning is the acquisition of knowledge and skills and more importantly, the ability to question assumptions, stretch boundaries, and develop a passion for the common good. “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The foundation of my teaching philosophy is to create a learning environment where all students, no matter their learning style, can maximize their learning potential and feel safe and comfortable doing so. This means addressing the class in a professional manner, being clear about my expectations, welcoming questions from students, being accessible outside of class to provide additional help to students who request it, and guiding students in how to be active learners.

It is not the knowledge base necessarily that makes one valuable as an educator, but rather the educator’s ability to create a lifelong learner, innovator, and critical thinker. All of us as educators are on a journey to achieve this goal in our fellow learners as consistently as possible. My role is to ignite their passion for compassionate medicine, coach them through the learning process, and set them up for success to self-evolve and become practice-based practitioners. To achieve this goal, I am a proponent of active learning through the advancement of case-based learning that fosters critical-thinking skills and guidance towards self-learning and creative problem solving. Moreover, my hope is that they take their knowledge base and critical thinking to the next level by becoming innovators themselves, moving the legacy of our profession ever forward.

My educational scholarship has been mostly directed towards medical student and resident education. I am especially interested in applying new technologies (internet, simulation) to the educational process for these learner groups. More specifically, I have created combined web- and simulation-based curricula for incoming PGY I residents and developed a simulation curriculum based on TeamSTEPPS for graduating medical students with interest in surgery.
My reason to participate within the Academy is to share my expertise and experiences with other Academy members, but also to use my background to the benefit of the teaching faculty at Upstate at large. Having performed educational research studies and received some grant funding for these endeavors I would like to continue my scholarly activities in this area and feel that the Academy is a great venue to do so.

Professional and graduate students require a focused curriculum to meet the demands of their degree programs, and yet every student has a unique mixture of knowledge that affects their ability to learn complex material. Thus I use an approach in the classroom that builds trust between me and the students, enabling me to recognize points where they need more background or examples of concepts. My goals are to incorporate active learning exercises into didactic lectures, encourage students to voice their uncertainties, identify the students' individual needs, and give them the skills for success in their fields.

Tenets of my teaching philosophy include the following:
1. Course materials and activities must be coherent and relevant to clinical practice. Objectives, activities, assignments, and assessments should be clearly described and linked to expected student outcomes. Linkages between, and across, didactic and clinical courses should be explicit.
2. Principles of adult learning and activities that require different learning styles should be incorporated across the curriculum to support learner engagement and motivation. Students should be held accountable for their learning and teachers should model the outcomes that they anticipate the students will perform/achieve/demonstrate.
3. Authentic learning experiences should be provided across the curriculum to ensure achievement of requisite performance competencies in knowledge, skills, and behaviors.
4. Students should be provided with ongoing formative/summative assessment and feedback opportunities including 360 degree evaluations (from clinical/academic faculty, peers, patients and standardized patients) to promote the identification of learners' strengths and areas that need to be developed.
5. Self-assessment and reflection are requisite for deep learning and personal meaning-making.

My philosophy about teaching is the same as my approach to any skill, hobby, sport, or job.  (1) Pick one that you intrinsically like. (2) Always look for ways to improve your knowledge and skills.  (3) Accept change as a positive thing and always try different ways to approach both problem areas and places which you are already an expert.  The key is to always move forward with knowledge, skills and application.  My hope is that students can appreciate this through my teaching and role modeling.  Teaching and learning are both progressive processes where teacher and students should strive to always continue their education and improve themselves in every way possible!

The essence of education begins and ends with good communication. Webster dictionary defines communication as the act of conveying information. History’s most effective educators were great communicators. Even more relevant in today’s digital age, the ability to share information is the foundation of education. Having grown up in a family with deaf/mute parents using sign language, I learned the importance of good communication early on in life. One must understand that good communication is not achieved simply with information disseminated but rather information understood and applied by the recipient. In the field of medicine, communication is paramount between teachers and students as well as physicians and their patients. By practicing good communication skills with students early on in their medical education, we encourage them to become better communicators with their students and their patients.

I have been so fortunate to be able to share the joy of learning.  Science and Medicine are so intrinsically interesting and help me understand what I observe and experience.  “Isn’t that Cool!” As I understand more clearly how ideas and experiences come together, I want to share it with my learner’s. 

Over the years, I’ve studied the ways in which I learn as well as how my students learn.  The similarities and differences are fascinating.  Educationally, I strive to connect new information and experiences with previous ones.  Where possible, I try to connect to the person’s own experience.  Improvements in group and individualized instruction for me grows from studying my learners.  I also like to study skill development similarly to understand acquisition and guide practice.  What could be better than the privileged position I hold as a medical educator.

Pam Youngs Maher
Youngs-Maher, EdD

My philosophy of education stems from servant leadership.  As Director of Online & Distance Learning, my primary role is to serve faculty by pairing their subject matter expertise with instructional design principles, best practices in online learning, active learning techniques, and a variety of educational technology tools to create learning environments that engage our students.  I also serve students.  Sharing teaching presence with our students helps them better prepare for their roles in their respective health professions.  And, advocating for online and distance learners helps us think about how to best serve all of our students when they are not on campus.

I believe being a good teacher involves developing a trust with the learners. Learners trust that you know your content, have effective delivery methods and evaluate content that was taught and is relevant. A teacher must trust that the students will be attentive and use the tools for learning that an educator gives them. The teacher also trusts that they are there to learn. The development of trust is the first step in effective communication of ideas and content. Trust is also necessary in a team of teachers. They have to trust in the dedication and work of their colleagues. A good team and a good team leader can elevate and support all of the members of the team. Education of learners, whether students or colleagues requires trust, communication, and hard work for individual, team, and institutional success. A student can be inspired by a teacher who is dedicated and cares about their success. This can inspire the students to be dedicated and care about their future patients.