My teaching philosophy is simple: active learning. Today, we all know that the passive transfer of information is not effective with most students. Instead, an active, two-way teaching is more effective and allows students better retention. In this type of instruction, the students have a greater share of the responsibility. This effective way of teaching is in tandem with an old Chinese proverb that says:

“Tell me and I’ll forget;
Show me and I may remember
Involve me and I’ll understand”

In the classroom, I act as a facilitator. Working with adults, I use andragogy, which means “the art and science of helping adults learn.” This is more effective than pedagogy, that is involved with “the art and science of teaching children.” In my teaching, I involve my students. Every student comes to class with a different background, experiences, and expectation. For this reason, I use a dynamic syllabus. In the first class, I begin surveying my students anonymously about what they like to get out of the class beside an A grade. Based on the survey responses, I adjust my course schedule within the scope of the course. This gives students a chance to control what they will learn in class and bring the subjects that are of direct interest and need for them.

The hospitality and tourism industry is a dynamic and fast-paced changing industry. Therefore, data in most of the books are outdated very quickly. That is why I always update the data in my course content with the current information and provide extra materials for students. Extra materials are also good for students who like to learn more about specific content. Moreover, I believe that life-long learning occurs when students are not just being told facts but are fully involved in the class and can connect to the information presented. My goal is to have my students leave the class having fully understood the subject matter and how to apply it to real life. To be able to maintain the pace of such a constantly self-reinventing industry yet stay competitive, it is necessary for each student to follow the industry. To do this, I often use daily life examples and stories in the class inspired by my own life and those around me. I believe that it is an effective strategy because it helps the students to relate what they learn to real-world situations. Moreover, I usually have 2-3 field trips and 2-3 industry guest speakers to maintain the contemporary knowledge for my students (Here is one example of a guest speaker I hosted in my class: https://vimeo.com/295811140).

Everybody learns or perceives information differently. Due to the differences in economic, ethnic, cultural, educational backgrounds, and personal preferences; there are differences in student learning styles. However, when learners are conscious of their learning styles or preferences, they can enhance their overall learning and have higher achievement.  In order to figure out these differences, I use a learning style assessment test in the first week. Based on the learning style assessment test results, I use different teaching methods and activities such as problem-solving, graphical analysis, data visualization, and stories during the classes to ensure the involvement of each student.

While teaching I am learning too, so learning never stops for me. I attend workshops and conferences especially sessions by the industry professionals to learn about current and future trends in the hospitality and tourism field and bring this knowledge to my students’ attention.  I also constantly check the current reports published by major hospitality associations such as American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), Hospitality Financial Technology Professionals (HFTP), United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and National Restaurant Association (NRA) and provide these reports as additional materials for students.

I constantly watch my students for their moment of learning in the classroom as well as outside the classroom. That is why I encourage personal interaction with students. I always tell them I am available for you via email or phone outside the classroom. It is really rewarding to work with students both in class and individually during office hours and to see them progress. I believe in the philosophy that students must be made comfortable to express their opinion and approach me with their questions because learning is incomplete without questioning. To this end, I encourage my students to contact me frequently as a way to show my concern about their learning.

I understand that we are helping Generation Z learn. Many of them grew up playing with mobile phones or tablets. They have grown up in a hyper-connected world. It is not easy to keep them away from their phones, tablets or computers. However, I am using their tools for the purpose of learning in the classroom by challenging them with questions and allowing them to use the internet search. I also create research groups in the classroom and ask students to report back to the class. In this way, they not only learn but also teach others where 95% of the learning occurs.

I also realize that nobody is perfect. There is always room for improvement. For this reason, I adopt a practice called satisfaction survey. I create an anonymous online survey where I ask students about their opinions, what they like and dislike about the course content, lectures, and me. I also get their opinion about what I should keep for future classes and what I should stop doing. They are free to fill out the evaluation form. Since it is anonymous, I usually have about a 90% participation rate on these evaluations. I bring their suggestions into the classroom and tell them how I will proceed based on their suggestions for the rest of the semester and for future classes.

Muhittin Cavusoglu