Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman

| learning-centered educator, literary and performing artist

Teaching Philosophy

Teaching is one of my greatest passions. I teach using an outcomes-based approach centered in Advancing Youth Development (AYD) theory and Student Development theory. AYD theory purports that in order for students to enjoy opportunities to express, earn, learn, etc., they must have services and supports in place first. This philosophy is born from my background in the social sciences and professional experience in out-of-classroom work experiences. I’ve found that teaching involves cultivating an environment where students feel safe, empowered, and inspired to learn, listen, interact and engage. This environment requires someone who can operate many moving parts while staying dedicated to meeting students where they are and treating each student fairly. In the more than twenty years I’ve worked as a teacher and facilitator, I have understood the truth that anyone can learn, but, not everyone can teach. I am proud to teach and be able to do, according to my students, an excellent job.

I have always had the rich opportunity of working as an administrator when I have held teaching assignments. I have been the Assistant Director of Residence Life, Academic Development at Morgan State University while teaching workshops on time management and study skills, and I was Faculty Advisor of Student Publications at Prince George’s Community College while teaching Communication Studies there and at Northern Virginia Community College.  I taught Freshman Orientation for Undecided Majors while working as the Program Coordinator for the Center for Academic Success and Achievement at Morgan State University.  As a college administrator, I’ve held leadership roles where I have had to make decisions regarding whether students can remain in school or asked to leave due to low grades and issues pertaining to academic success. While counseling these students, I’ve learned that poor academic progress rarely is because a student lacks the will to learn or the will to achieve.

Typically, a service or support is absent which impacts the student’s ability to actualize the opportunity to do well. Services are things done for the student. They could range from the school’s writing center that edits student papers to the cafeteria that serves food. Some schools offers note-taking services, and reading services, too. Supports are the things done with the student. Supports range from study groups, hands-on/practicum experiences, and one-on-one teacher meetings. They also include tutoring, advising, and mental health consultation. When I teach, regardless of the institution, I familiarize myself with the supports and services offered so that I can make referrals to students and invite staff from said offices to visit my classroom to talk about their services and supports. I have even gone so far as to include in my curriculum (regardless of course subject) an assignment that requires students to familiarize themselves with on-campus services and supports before I even begin to assign subject-relevant coursework in my class.

Introducing students to services and supports is a preventative strategy to avoid a barrage of students who do poorly during mid-terms and final exams and are seeking special permission to do additional assignments or something else to avoid failing my class. If I introduce students to the services and supports that exist on their campus and include their use as an expectation during my class, I limit the number of students who fail and I am assisting that student in building their skill in navigating their campus and developing study skills necessary to do well in not just my class, but their other courses, too.

Effective teachers understand that one is never fully prepared to teach before they meet their students. One can never anticipate the students they will encounter. So, an innate flexibility is crucial. Flexibility allows me to adapt my instruction to the initial needs of my students to help build skills and get them to the goal level the course requires. This standard does not change depending on the age level or learning level of my students. All students benefit from instruction that begins at a starting point that they can understand. When you start at this point, students, like frogs in water that is gradually heated, will not be jolted and overwhelmed as you gradually increase the rigor if you start at a level they feel is achievable.  As an instructor of an introduction course in Human Communication, I have taught more than a dozen classes filled with students who, at first, did not enjoy public speaking, were uncomfortable within groups and had little experience writing cohesive and organized speeches. Within the course of our time together, their skills improved and their feelings about the course content changed as they felt empowered and comfortable. I have had countless students write to me to thank me for how I made a subject they were afraid to approach seem possible to master. The student below sent me the message below in an email after the end of our Intro to Communication Studies class which was filled with robust group discussions, presentations and field experience.

I am writing you today, because I was thinking about the thought-provoking and mind-altering time I had in class during the first six week session of the summer...In addition to the trans-actional communication model, you have taught me how to effectively communicate while working in a group and how to be a positive person. By watching you, I have learned how to accept people's flaws and to maintain positivity when communicating with them...I say that you are a very positive and intelligent instructor, I also include that you are highly educated but not pretentious (what I like about you the most) and you are helpful."

-S. Ramos, Northern Virginia Community College student

My methodology entails assigning weekly at least one reflective assignment that requires students to actually deconstruct their study and learning process for the week. Descriptive shares about what they learned in their textbook or their field experience is told from a first-person viewpoint to give voice to their feelings, concerns and personal situations. Coupled with a reflective assignment is always an assessment of some sort each week that tests retention of information and it’s appropriate application.  Assessments can range in form of a standard pen and paper test/quiz, a game (that also fosters group/team building), a formal or informal presentation or peer-led activity.

As an educator in the new millennium, it is crucial I ensure that I am teaching students information that is relevant to the world around, using the tools that are current and, if possible, on the verge of being industry-standard tools. Therefore, smart phones become teaching and learning tools, social media becomes a learning platform and students are able to introduce things they are familiar with that I may not be aware of. Teaching works both ways in my classroom.

I also find value in students being able to work independently and in groups successfully. To foster an environment where students are expected to work well with others and build skill in this area, I infuse classroom instruction with elements of team building principles before assigning group assignments. Students are the greatest resources to each other. They learn from each other how to navigate campus, they borrow learning tools from each other, they commiserate together, they are influenced by each other when it comes to course selection, they also influence each other sometimes on whether to continue with their program of study. Many schools don’t realize that retention is strongly impacted by the relationships students foster with other students and their campus community. Understanding this influence students have on each other, I believe it my duty as a teacher to include opportunities for students to work teams and to demonstrate content understanding through group presentations.

My teaching work has been impacted positively by work experiences outside of the classroom and vice versa. For instance, during Summer 2015 when I worked as a Program Associate with the Ronald E. McNair Scholars program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), I reviewed graduate school applications of undergraduate students in pursuit of advanced degrees, led workshops on how to prepare for professional careers in academia and mentored students overwhelmed with the thought of transitioning from an undergraduate program to a graduate program. I have found that my teaching has been effective largely in part to my interdisciplinary work background, my holistic awareness of the student as a learner, and my understanding of different professional pedagogies. 

As faculty advisor for student publications at Prince George's Community College, Khadijah is pictured at the bi-annual magazine unveiling event. Khadijah is with student graphic artist Natalia who designed the cover of the Reflections Literary and Arts Magazine being unveiled (2015).

Khadijah with her Morgan State University students in her Freshman Orientation course for Undecided Majors (2016)

Khadijah with her students in her Intro to Communication Studies students from Northern Virginia Community College (2011)