Teaching Portfolio

Teaching philosophy and core teaching principles

My teaching philosophy is deeply rooted in the ideas of John Dewey who famously defined education as “life itself”. I focus on collaborative problem-solving and free exchange of ideas. I believe students learn best through hands-on experience situated in social contexts and relevant to their community by applying the scientific method of thinking and I design my course to emphasize activities that reflect this. 

The three core principles in my teaching are:

The three years of teaching a course on learning and college success skills at the Ohio State University has allowed me to develop a well-defined tool kit applicable to both in-person and online educational contexts.

Emphasis on the scientific method of thinking and problem-solving 

Scientists solve problems by forming a hypothesis, performing an experiment, and reflecting on the results. I structure my course assignments to encourage these types of activities. For example, when studying motivation, I have had students use a combination of past observations and theories of motivation to identify the causes of their motivational problems (form a hypothesis), apply derived motivational strategies for at least one week, record the results and interpret them. I asked the students to draw their own conclusions about the validity of their hypothesis based on their findings (i.e., whether the identified cause was indeed at the root of the problem). As a final activity I had them discuss their individual findings as a group with a goal of collective problem-solving. 

Emphasis on community building and collaboration

From day one I tell my student their peers are the number one resource for learning and support. I look to build a close-knit community of learners using two main instruments: games and collaborative group work. Every class we started with a game that helped students experience collaborative work. One of my students’ favorite games is a Russian children’s game called “Creek”, in which students form two columns holding hands; the first pair moves through the “creek of hands” following a certain pattern; the other pairs join in until the entire creek is moving continuously. It is a simple yet compelling way to bring students together. This is important because my classes involve many small-group debates and discussions and collaborative hands-on activities, bringing in different, unique perspectives. For example, conversations about goal-setting could evolve into group debate about how cultural stereotypes (e.g., one should always strive to achieve big challenging goals) influence our habits and behaviors. I always promote students’ reflections on how their beliefs and attitudes about college and learning can change through the perspectives of others. Many of my students note how they have made many meaningful social connections in my class, discovering new and rewarding ways to learn. 

In online settings, I help students build community through creating photo rosters, small-group video calls, discussion-based assignments, collaborative projects, and peer reviews. 

Emphasis on exploration

Many problems in modern society require creativity to solve them (with facts and content easily available on the web). I structure my classes to encourage students to engage in creative problem-solving through self-initiated explorations. For example, students can learn how to prioritize tasks by working in teams to perform as many tasks as they could to receive the most points. Busy with forming a moving conga line (earning them impressive 20 points) and making a nickname for each team member (adding mere 5 points), they naturally pick up essential principles of prioritizing through their activities – later uncovered through group discussion. The final projects are usually open-ended, promoting reflection on students’ progress throughout the semester. For example, they could pick a book that helps them achieve one of their goals, implement the strategies they learned and record their results (another form of scientific thinking), sharing their final reflection with others. Any possible format was allowed for this project for my online students except for a paper and a PowerPoint. Students challenged themselves by making videos, cartoons, engaging in digital storytelling, creating blog posts, comics, podcasts, and even singing – all of which require solid problem-solving and critical reflection skills (some of the results are posted on the university website here). I always provide a lot of technical support to my students in view of my extensive experience with technological tools.

Learning outcomes and expectations

I assess students’ progress using a holistic, formative approach. I do not rely on quizzes and tests but rather on tracking the change in their thinking through their engagement in class discussions and activities, open-ended writing assignment and creative projects, and their own evaluations of their progress. I provide ample feedback on all assignments (both in-person and online) and recommend resources and future directions of action based on each individual situation. I expect my students to come to class with an open mind, ready to challenge their own and others’ thinking, and strive to make practical positive change, and I clearly communicate this expectation from the start. I also tell them that they can expect me to be equally open-minded and ready to collaborate, offer support with academic and personal struggles, and work with them as a community to lead the course in the direction most relevant to their needs.

Concluding thoughts

As a follower of Deweyan philosophy of education, my teaching methods aim to create a productive environment fostering collaborative-problem solving in a close-knit community of learners. I plan to continuously refine my approach because each community of learners is unique and my role as a teacher is to notice where the most productive areas of student development are and gently guide them in that direction – while closely paying attention to their own learning goals and aspirations. I believe this flexible approach can be applied to any type of content and modified to address the needs of any student population.

Sample Teaching Materials

Game starters

Games for community building

A compilation of the most fun and effective games that helped me build a strong, tight-knit learning community

Mnemonics and memory activity

Memory class activity

An activity designed to help students practice the use of mnemonics and associations

Memory and Memory Strategies

Memory and memory strategies

Class plan

Online class assignments

Online class assignment samples

Motivation and Concentration experiments

My principles of language teaching

Free and open source resources for language teaching

Over the years I've compiled a list of free and open-source resources that support language teaching and learning in effective ways and promote equal access to high-quality materials. Below you can find the sources I use the most in my teaching.



General technology resources

Sample student materials and handouts

Russian cases (handout for active use; a condensed version of a topic that takes up entire chapters)

Rusisan cases cheat sheet_PR.pdf

Russian cases (handout for active use; a condensed version of a topic that takes up sounds chapters)

Russian_ beginner level alphabet and pronunciation.pdf