“True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.”
– Nikos Kazantzakis
I like to employ a hands-on, methodological approach to teaching. I am a firm believer in guiding students on how to develop the skills, methodologies and most importantly, the critical thinking that will facilitate their successfully tackling of new problems in the future. I place strong emphasis on class material. However I also believe that such material can be easily forgotten and pertain more internal valid benefits while problem solving skills carry a higher degree of external validity. The ability to think critically and face problems not seen before can shift one’s perspective and is probably one of the greatest assets that a student can develop while at school and then use extensively in their future endeavors and in life in general. As a teaching assistant of “Consumer Behavior” at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, I helped guide my students into identifying interesting real-world applications of consumer behavior problems, analyze them and propose solutions and/or explanations for the underlying situation. In doing so, I learned to balance the fine line between giving pointers and suggestions while promoting their own creativity and problem solving methodologies. At the final presentations I was extremely surprised at the level of in-depth analysis and the methodology of the solutions that many students proposed.
Furthermore, I am an advocate that while a teacher should be both passionate and deeply knowledgeable about the class material, the teacher should be open to new ways of thinking that stem from students’ questions, comments, or remarks. While it’s the instructors job to be aware of various ways of approaching a problem, together with real-world motivations behind the models under study as well as related concepts and methodologies, education never stops even for the instructor. I experienced this while grading exams as part of my teaching assistant responsibilities in various classes at the University of Southern California and Universitat Pompeu Fabra. The more I graded, the more surprised and intrigued I came to be at the different (oftentimes correct and sometimes even more efficient than the instructor’s grading scheme) techniques and methodologies applied by students to various problems. Without a shadow of a doubt, my teaching experience has, so far, vastly improved my understanding of various concepts in econometrics and microeconomics as well as widened my skillset of various ways through which certain problems can be viewed and tackled from.
Finally, it is important to incorporate a flexible teaching style in order to better cater for heterogeneous backgrounds and learning styles. As a private tutor at the University of Southern California I had the opportunity to work one-to-one with numerous students on similar material – mostly undergraduate microeconomics and econometrics classes. Working closely with one student at a time, digging deep into their problems and trying to find different ways of explaining class material or solutions to particular problems was an eye-opening experience for me. I found that while one particular explanation would make perfect sense to some of the students, another type of explanation would be better for others. For example, some students needed to understand the theoretical underpinnings of the equations in order to be able to see the bigger picture, others needed examples that brought the models to real-world situations using specific goods, quantities and prices.
For a summary of my teaching experience and student evaluations see here.
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