Our September Teaching Excellence Spotlight awardee is Qiwei Li, Teaching Fellow and Doctoral Student in the Department of Rehabilitation and Health Services. Instructor Li describes his overall approach to teaching as “adaptive” and is always adjusting his teaching to meet students where they are.
“. . . even though he is a full-time Ph.D. student with a growing family, he takes time out to really care for the students outside of the classroom any time the need arises. As his mentor and boss, I have watched him grow and not only meet, but exceed my expectations as an instructor both online and in the classroom. His attention to every detail about his courses shows great future potential to be an outstanding professor as well as a prolific researcher. . . I cannot think of another instructor at this time that puts more heart and soul into preparation for each and every class to make sure it is the very best that it can be.” – Dr. Becky Knight about Instructor Li
How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching for UNT for two semesters (Fall, 2018 and Spring, 2019).
What classes have you taught/do you teach at UNT?
AGER 4800: The Social Context of Aging: Global Perspectives, AGER 2250: The Aging Images in Films and Literature, and several lectures for other classes such as RHAB 5700.
How have you worked on developing your teaching skills?
Public speaking skills: how to adjust the flow of information according to the facial feedbacks given by students; methods to help articulate complicated theories with simple real-life examples; and questioning skills to encourage students to participate into class learning.
Having peers come to my class and provide feedback are helpful during my first two semesters.
Did you ever take formal classes or trainings on teaching in graduate school? What about later on in your teaching?
I have completed the Graduate Student Teaching Excellence Program (GSTEP). Such systematic training and practicums for shaping my teaching philosophy and for enhancing my teaching skills have continuous impacts on my teaching practices.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced teaching, and how did you overcome them?
Students vary from semester to semester. A universal teaching strategy that works for all classes does not exist. Even for the jokes and fun stories that have great amusing and relaxing effects in one class may not be as useful as to other classes. I have taught same modules for three different classes and had to use three different strategies.
One class was very active, students were eager answering and posing questions. I had to balance between providing extra information and keeping time and class progression as displayed on schedule. The second class was quiet. Questions asked did not bounce back. Therefore, I made a rule that we vote, and everybody votes. I then converted most of the class questions into YES/NO questions. After a few rounds of vote, students were warmer than they were at the beginning of the class.
The third class, the one I am working with now, is very grade-driven. Students exhibit enthusiasm on grades, making them focus only on the content that may appear in quizzes. I particularly lower the percentage of quizzes in the syllabus and increase that of class participation and team projects.
How would you describe your approach to teaching?
Adaptive. It would be the best if students can leave my class with critical thinking skills and multi-culture sensitiveness. As an international student, I would like to share with students my perspective towards class topics and to make comparisons between them. The proportion of the population in the US has been changed dramatically due to immigrants and international refugees. Thus, viewing one topic through various cultural lens is more likely to make students successful in the real world.
As to critical thinking, it is an indispensable skill that benefits almost everyone. With the availability of search engines like Google, students will be facing tons of information when looking for valid evidence for their practice in real employments. I have shared with my students scientific studies through which the evidence is disseminated. The purpose of doing this is to encourage students to familiarize themselves with the level of evidence, to know that facts have various level of validity.
What resources do you find most helpful to your teaching practice?
Faculty-mentoring: a good faculty member as my mentor has been helping me through my whole master’s program and keeps working with me in improving my teaching quality. Training programs and workshops such as GSTEP and peer-mentoring.