Faculty & Staff / In The Classroom

Using Innovative Teaching Methods to Engage Students

Christina Jackson Adler University

Christina Jackson, Ph.D.

Congratulations to Christina Jackson, Ph.D., Associate Professor for the Department of Counseling and Counselor Education and Supervision in Chicago, for receiving the first annual Adler University Excellence in Teaching Award. During a ceremony on May 14, Dr. Jackson was recognized for her innovative teaching strategies and creativity in actively engaging students in the classroom. She shares her thoughts on how educators can ensure that they are creating an inclusive environment and continuously innovating and improving to best serve all of their students.

Why did you decide to become a professor?
I didn’t intend to become a faculty member. I went through a doctorate program to work in the community. But, by happenstance I became a teaching assistant and loved it. I realized that I had a skill set for teaching. In that way, teaching found me.

You talk about constantly searching for how to improve and innovate, why do you think that drive is important?
I believe it is important to constantly search for how to improve and innovate because so much of our society is changing. Technology changes at a rapid pace which impacts changes in other aspects of our society. I believe it is imperative that mental health professionals need to keep up with our society that is constantly evolving.

What are your tips for fellow educators?
My experience as a student helped shape my teaching. Through that experience, I realized that it’s important to bring real world experience and application to the teaching experience. This helps students gain an understanding of how the books they read in class can relate to real-life cases that they could experience in their future work.

The five keys to effective teaching that I would recommend to educators are:

  1. Encourage students to be active and engaged in their own learning. Many of my assignments are guided by them deciding the topic and population that they want to focus on, so they are excited by the work and engaged in the learning.
  2. Maintain respect for the diverse learning styles students may have. My goal has been to incorporate various styles of learning so all students feel like there is something they can grasp.
  3. Practice critical thinking and demonstrate how it can be used in other aspects of life. Find things that they can relate to that fit their life. This allows them to think about the concept in a way that expands their mind beyond what is in the textbook.
  4. Assess and monitor learning among students, as it relates to teaching style, course materials, etc. If there are any concerns, we address them as we go, and before the end of the semester.
  5. Learn and incorporate new, innovative, and a variety of teaching methods. I have found new ways to engage students by changing and varying the format of teaching assignments. For example, I have incorporated more small group discussions and in-class assignment opportunities for instructive feedback, instead of all lecture-based classes. I also have included more project-based work and have converted many of my written assignments into presentations. This has decreased student anxiety significantly and allows for them to practice their speaking and presenting skills.

These come from my teaching philosophy, which hasn’t changed a lot, but for me has been an essential guide.

What does this award and recognition mean to you?
This award and recognition mean that others acknowledge and recognize the efforts that I make to prepare future mental health professionals.

What do you enjoy most about teaching at Adler University?
I enjoy teaching students who like to engage in discussions about how social justice and advocacy overlaps with mental health. I enjoy being at an institution that aligns with my values about social justice. It allows me to enjoy and be more engaged in teaching.