Teach to Learn

John Sands believes that teaching is a collaborative process, with instructors learning alongside their students. He monitors their progress to gauge next instructional steps and ensure mastery of the material. He develops his own teaching practice through continuous education, reflection and mentoring new instructors.

John assesses students to determine their progress.

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John begins class by outlining objectives.

John teaches at Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois, USA. The college prides itself on providing flexible instruction, and professors go out of their way to ensure the success of their students. John uses a variety of assessment methods to measure student understanding. While he employs traditional testing methods to assess whether students have reached major instructional goals, John relies on informal daily checks to measure students’ progress toward these goals. Sometimes he stops mid-lecture to ask, “What isn’t making sense?”

Moraine Valley Community College

But John doesn’t just assess his students; he continually asks himself what he can do to help students own the material. This self-check helps him determine future lesson plans and pace instruction appropriately.

John recognizes the value of team teaching in the reflection process.

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John mentors new instructor John Menoko.

John team teaches LAN 266 with John Menoko, a new part-time faculty member who specializes in Network Security. The college’s team teaching model requires that John Menoko observe John’s lecture, contribute to class discussion, and plan a segment of the class to co-teach. They also give each other feedback and share instructional strategies. Working together stimulates both instructors consciously to focus on improving classroom instruction.

John pushes himself and his students to move beyond baseline objectives.

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Students in John’s class are at different stages.

John believes that successful students go beyond the assigned curriculum, exploring related topics of interest, posing thoughtful questions, and applying their knowledge to workforce realities. John incorporates student interests into classroom discussions and activities, essentially personalizing every section of LAN 266 according to his students’ career goals. He finds this makes a big difference in student achievement.

John acknowledges the importance of standardized course expectations, but he wants students to achieve beyond the minimum requirements and doesn’t want course goals to limit student growth. Students work on material at their own pace: some progress through coursework quickly while others struggle with specific content before mastering it and moving forward.

The challenges of a class comprising students of varied ages, experiences, and learning styles provide John with many opportunities to grow as an instructor. He intentionally works on his teaching and models a commitment to lifelong learning. With a recently awarded doctorate in community college leadership, John infuses his class with knowledge from his ongoing research on effective teaching and learning.