In addition to my clinical work, I have had excellent opportunities to teach a variety of courses at several local universities in South Florida. I have been employed by Florida International University (FIU) Psychology Department as an Adjunct Lecturer since 2013, teaching various undergraduate psychology courses (live, web-assisted, and fully-online), including (but not limited to) FIU’s Core Curriculum “gateway” courses, such as Introduction to Psychology, Human Growth and Development, and Research Methods, that are critical for undergraduate students’ success and used for the university’s Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation. I also taught several graduate-level courses, such as Clinical Practicum Supervision. In addition to FIU, I’ve taught live and online undergraduate courses at Nova Southeastern University’s Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; and Barry University’s School of Professional and Career Education (PACE), Liberal Studies program, Pembroke Pines, FL.
Among the most satisfying experiences for me as an Adjunct Lecturer has been interacting with students on an individual basis before and after class, and during my office hours. I believe this kind of one-on-one student-centered interaction to be essential to the students’ academic growth and development as it allows me to tailor my instruction to individual student needs. It also allows me to build my knowledge and awareness of my students’ diverse identities and backgrounds related to not only race and ethnicity, but also sexual orientation, gender, age, religion, political opinion, language, so that I can understand and recognize various learning styles since students of varying backgrounds/cultures learn in unique ways. Moreover, interacting with students on an individual basis allows me to identify what lecture material and class assignments works for whom so that no one feels left out. By focusing on what works for my students, I put my classroom’s environment first, so that my teaching can yield maximum educational outcomes.
Here are a few quotes from my students’ feedback and evaluation I’ve received from FIU’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT) Thank-a-Prof program:
- “Dr. Fredericks engaged us, encouraged us and created an environment where we were urged to think, ask questions and apply what we were learning to our daily lives and relationships.”
- “I want to think Irina Fredericks for always giving us her best, always being prepared and helping me to truly understand psychology. You made [Introductory Psychology] class a lot more understandable and less intimidating. … You are an amazing professor and I truly mean it. I can say that I truly learned in this class and appreciate all the effort you put into it. Again, thank you.”
- “I would like to thank Dr. Fredericks for being thoroughly involved with her online course and for providing enriching content that built on my current knowledge. I learned many different techniques that I plan on using in my career. I’m appreciative that even though I was an online student, I felt like I was in class. The Professor was responsive and set up the course so that if you are involved you are submerged, therefore you do not fall behind. I enjoyed the course.”
My pedagogical stance and philosophy is that each and every one of my students is a unique individual who needs a safe, stimulating, and equitable environment in which he or she can grow and mature socially, emotionally, and intellectually. To establish such an environment, I strive to (1) act as a guide, (2) allow students’ natural curiosity to facilitate self-discovery, and (3) promote in students respect for themselves, others, and their environment.
To act as a guide, I provide students an access to information rather than act as the primary source of information. By not spoon-feeding them information, I ensure that my students develop the tools to work through a general problem rather than simply memorize answers. In guided search for knowledge, the students also become active learners who strive to find answers to their questions on their own. One way to accomplish that is by incorporating into the curriculum brainstorming sessions, group projects and presentations, and individual hands-on activities. By engaging students into such learning activities and allowing adequate time and space to use the materials that reinforce the lesson being taught, I facilitate students’ sense of curiosity, open-mindedness, and a thirst for knowledge.
To allow the students’ self-discovery, I provide an opportunity to study material that is meaningful and relevant to the students’ needs and interests. One way to accomplish that is by putting the students at the center of a lesson-planning process. Such an approach is likely to foster students’ intrinsic motivation and the passion to learn. Another way to facilitate self-discovery is by creating an atmosphere that encourages the students to openly share opinions with and to mentor one another. With such an opportunity for input, students generate ideas and set goals for learning that are much richer than I, as an educator, could have created myself. When the students have the ownership in the curriculum, they are motivated to work hard and master the skills necessary for the constructive learning.
To promote in students respect for themselves, others, and their environment, I encourage regular attendance to class meetings, and facilitate positive discipline and democratic principles. One way to accomplish that is by setting fair and consistent rules of class behavior initially and stating the importance of every activity so that students are shown respect for their presence and time. When students are sure of what is expected of them, they are likely to have great respect for their teachers, peers, and the learning material presented in class. Another way to promote respect is by encouraging the students to ask questions and thus demonstrating that I, as an educator, am open to their thoughts, eager to hear their opinions, and thrilled to learn with and through them.
Above all else, it is my belief that students need to not only receive a solid education but also work with someone who is sensitive to their individual needs. Indeed, there is a need for compassionate individuals who are excited about helping others to become insightful and enthusiastic thinkers. I also believe in need to challenge and be challenged by the students. In doing so, I hope that every one of my students would feel the passion that I feel for the exploration of psychological theory, research, and practice. It is my belief that this passion is the single most important component of effective teaching as it leads to thorough preparation, continuous evolution of teaching skills, and the pleasure of watching students learn.
Irina Fredericks, Ph.D., LMHC, specializes in evidence-based assessment and mental counseling services for children, adolescents, and adults. She offers her services in both Russian and English languages. The services are provided fully ONLINE via a HIPAA-approved website. For more information or to contact Dr. Fredericks, please click here.