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Educator voices: Valentina de Marchi on her educational philosophy

Let's hear Valentina De Marchi talk passionately about her educational philosophy.
Whenever I feel myself trapped into many, many hours of teaching a week, I sometimes ask myself the question, why do I teach at all? But when I do not teach, that’s when I get the answer clear. And actually to me, teaching is actually the best way to create an impact with my research. I do research on sustainability and organization. And I do this because I truly believe we need to change things.
And I believe that teaching students, teaching future managers how to do things differently, have them reflect and be critical about what they know, and what they are, understand– what their understanding of economics and management is, to me, is the greatest way to create an impact, and also one of those that provide me with the better feelings because it’s always really great to engage with students learn from them, and be challenged from their questions.
I do teach several classes to undergrad students at economics degree at the University of Padova. The topics I’m teaching, I don’t really feel I have much freedom in deciding them. So I’m assigned just a part of the course, and I am assigned the four topics that need to interact and engage with the other parts. So I feel I’m teaching what I’m expected to teach yet, within those topics, I make it my profession in determining whatever, how I can play out with the concepts. For example, introducing sustainability issues even in non-sustainable courses, just because I think this is a, this is a topic that should be addressed in very different perspectives in all the courses.
So yeah, this is what I teach: what I’m told to do, but in my own way, and giving an emphasis, depending on what I believe is the most important for students.
I feel myself as a facilitator. The very first day I entered the classe,s when I had no experience, I felt really terrified about having to speak one hour and a half often of topics that I don’t really like myself and I didn’t feel that much confident. And so very often and very soon I realized that it was even much better for me, in the first place, to have them talk and discuss rather than having me speaking. And this is really what I do in my, in all my classes.
I trying to convey some concepts, but more, I trying to make them aware about what they know already and to provide them with the opportunity to share that or to challenge that. And especially to discuss that with their peers. Talking with themself, I realize that we’re able to bring to the table very detailed and deep analysis. So I keep reinforcing my perspective that I should facilitate rather than provide specific content.
Well, I mentioned that when I started, I was little bit terrified of teaching and confronting students, but now that I’m more experienced, I’m always, I wouldn’t say, terrified, but upset about evaluation of learning. This is still to me the most difficult task. And I have the perception sometimes that very good students, are not getting very good grades or vice versa. Students are in class didn’t really gave me the impression to really understand the concepts and to really be passionate about it, yet have their high values– high grades at the end of the course. So how do I evaluate teaching, I think is not in the proper way yet.
I use techniques that again, as for the content, needs to align with other, what other colleagues are doing, given we are sharing the same course. And most of this is in, in written questions– in multiple choice questions, which not often really captures the—which not often allows all the students to provide their knowledge, given they have different ways of learning and also to expressing them. So this is, you know, how to evaluate learning. I do also use and find very useful to implement group activities during the course, which I believe is where I can get a better feeling of what students are really doing.
What is knowledge, and what is value? Those are two very interesting questions that reflect one on the other. I think knowledge is something that is valuable to create impact, to change the way that students, that in my case, are future managers, potentially, or future entrepreneurs. Knowledge is something that affects their way of thinking, that interacts with what they know, and that allows them to see things in a different way. So if this is knowledge, valuing it is very difficult. I learned recently to appreciate more the concept of value in terms of marking in a way or reporting what is there or not, what is not there.
Yet, to be honest, and connected with my perception of my own evaluative process, I don’t feel I’m really evaluating enough the knowledge, detected by students. And I think this is related partly on how, on the process implemented to measure knowledge, which is just one, whereas students have very different approaches and, and capabilities and perspectives. And also is related with perception of the students, that is related to the fact they think they are expected to report what was written in textbooks or what they learned rather than what they really learned or what is knowledge for them.
So I think there is a dual problem here: on the one hand, on the institution on which I’m constrained, but I’m also part of which provide guidelines on an indication and expectations on how to capture and how to measure knowledge which reflect what is valued. But on the other end, still there is in the student that perception as well. And very often, even if they have some ideas more critical, they often restrain to report them as they think this is not what we do value as knowledge.
Given I feel a facilitator and I love this role rather than being someone that has the knowledge to be provided, I always try to have at least two or three moments during my one and half hour classes where to stop and ask students, to interact some way with each other. I use a lot of peer learning, even maybe too much. Sometimes they ask me that Professor, tell us what is your– what was the right answer? Professor, tell us what you think about it. But I always try to– I’d rather prefer to give them the opportunity to–well, first reflect on their own and then to share with them. And I’m trying to provide a little bit of gamification in it.
For their learning and their attention during the class, it’s very important to include some elements that allows them, even potentially, to smile. And this is not necessarily done with using of–the use of technology, of course, for online teaching, I’m using a lot of softwares. But in class, I’d rather prefer to have them move, stand up, move their bodies. Doing this type of activities, which at the end, put a smile on their face, but also activate positive feelings, which further reinforce, hopefully, their learning.

We are down to the last (but never the least) video on educational philosophy.

Have you picked up some important insights from the previous videos? Now let’s hear from another classroom pro.

Valentina de Marchi is an Associate Professor at the Department of Economics and Management ‘Marco Fanno’ at the University of Padova.

Keep taking note of poignant insights as these might be useful when you start thinking about your own educational philosophies.

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