Teaching Philosophy

Never enter into a classroom without first assuming that someone in there is of nobler heart and sounder mind than yourself.

                                                                                     George Grant

Teaching is a privilege, an honour, and a responsibility of the highest order. It is an opportunity to participate in the personal and educational journeys of students, while bearing witness to the tremendous changes which learners can experience in stimulating, inspiring, engaging, and rigorous educational environments. I believe that teaching is not just about delivering content; it is also about facilitating the processes of sense- and meaning-making for students; it is about creating academically-based, yet personally engaging and contextualized educational environments that are both rigorous and meaningful. Given this, I believe classrooms and educational environments should challenge conventional modes of knowing and learning, as well as the boundaries of knowledge, canons, and disciplines. As such, educators need to foster independence, collaborative work, and community responsibility, and to encourage students to ask the interesting and provocative questions, not simply the questions deemed to be ‘right’ or ‘appropriate’.

I approach my teaching with great passion, enthusiasm, education, and heart, as well as dedication to my students and to the transformative opportunities inherent in higher education learning environments. My teaching is situated at the intersection of transformative learning, critical pedagogy, Freirian dialogue and conscientization, and learning theory. I employ multiple strategies and approaches in my classrooms, all of which display my commitment to fostering engaging, challenging, active, and collaborative learning environments. As my students will attest, my classrooms are active and participatory, and utilize numerous techniques and strategies to enhance and expand the learning experience of the students. I am also an adaptive and creative educator who creates flexible, open, and accessible learning environments that foster intellectual curiosity, critical self-reflection, learner independence, and active engagement.

I have had the privilege of teaching over 400 undergraduate students through a fourth year seminar course (EDRD 4020), three second year International Development courses (IDEV 2500 W10, IDEV 2500 W11, and IDEV 2500 W12), one First Year Seminar Course (UNIV 1200 W12) and several senior independent study courses through the International Development and Biomedical Sciences programmes (IDEV 3200 F10, IDEV 4190 W10, IDEV 4190 F10, IDEV 4200 W10, IDEV 4200 W12, and BIOM 4510).  Through these courses, I have aspired to build from learning objectives and multi-disciplinary content, and create educational environments that are dynamic, rigorous, and engaging. I consistently receive excellent feedback from students, with many citing my classes as the highlight of their academic careers. I am also an avid, ardent, and active researcher, and I continually incorporate my research projects and skills into my courses in order to expose my students to work at the intersection of theory, practice, and research.

From the first day of class onwards, I encourage students to set their own learning goals, and to continually critically question and engage with the course material. I foster learning environments that interface teaching and learning together through course content and curriculum, and I continually communicate to students the links between subject matter, theory, course learning objectives, and real-world applications. Cognizant of the myriad ways that people learn, I also use multiple forms of assessment throughout my courses to ensure that students have varied ways of sharing and making knowledge. I also incorporate mid-semester instructor and course evaluations in my classes, and I endeavour to respond to constructive student feedback to continue to develop my teaching approach and classroom environments.

Finally, I believe in the sheer power of learning and education, not only to change and transform the lives of students, but also the lives of the educator. As such, I endeavour to be a critically reflective practitioner, and to continually challenge myself to become an ever-better teacher, facilitator, and learner in order to provide students with the space and the freedom to learn. Teaching is a challenging and stimulating vocation, but it is also a difficult skill that needs continual attending to and developing. As Heidegger explains, “teaching is more difficult than learning because what teaching calls for is this: to let learn. Indeed, the proper teacher lets nothing else be learned than—learning.” And that is what I always strive to do in the classroom and as a teacher: to let learning emerge and to let learn.

My students consistenly rate me as one of the best profs they have had in their undergraduate education, and my courses as highlights of their academic career. As some of my previous students have shared on course evaluations,

Ashlee was an amazing professor. One of the best I have had throughout my university career. She is understanding, smart, down to earth, and makes the classes somethign that I actually want to attend. She made class discussions comfortable and was extremely helpful throughout. Always accessible and easily approachable. Extremely knowledgeable about the class and the course content. To me, no improvements needed! EDRD 4020 F07 Student

They talk about how everyone has that ‘one’ prof in university who changes you. Aside from the fact that that may be quite sad [that there is only one], you have been that prof. EDRD 4020 F07 Student

I just wanted to thank you for leading such an amazing, inspiring, and engaging class and seminar this semester. I have gone through two years of University and I have never had a Professor leave such an impact on me. Your passion, optimism, and knowledge have truly taught me many things I will forever cherish. You not only taught us about development you also demonstrated strong character and a positive attitude that we all aspire to. …This will be a class I never forget. IDEV 2500 W11 Student

For a detailed Teaching Dossier, please click the link: Teaching Dossier, Ashlee Cunsolo Willox September 2012