My Teaching Portfolio
I. Teaching Philosophy
(ア) Theoretical Aspect
According to Pratt and Collins’ Teacher’s Inventory, I am primarily a Nurturing Teacher with a strong Developmental perspective. While I do value the other three approaches, Transmission and Social Reform and Apprenticeship, the first two do explain quite well my personal approach to teaching. In keeping with Pratt and Collins, I think that the best learning takes place in a well supported environment where “learners are nurtured in knowing that they can succeed at learning if they give it a good try; their achievement is a product of their own effort and ability, rather than the benevolence of a teacher; and their learning efforts will be supported by both teacher and peers.” However, the environment is only one factor in which learning can take place, the other important factor for learning is to constantly push your boundaries, and practice ‘thinking outside the box’ effectively. From a teacher’s perspective, “effective questioning that challenges learners to move from relatively simple to more complex forms of thinking, and ‘bridging knowledge’ which provides examples that are meaningful to the learner” can encourage this. Within these two parameters, teachers and learners will eventually improve each other’s learning.
George Brown College’s mission statement indicates that the college strives to “provide high-quality education that meets the evolving social and economic development needs of the communities we serve, enabling students to succeed in achieving their individual career and life goals…and foster a culture of continuous learning within the College for students, staff and community partners” In the following I will elaborate on how the above stated teaching and learning strategies as well as the college’s philosophy converge with my personal views as a teacher.
(イ) Practical Aspect
As a teacher, I believe it is my responsibility not only to instruct my students about a specific topic, but also to educate them in critical thinking, group oriented work, and to give them the necessary skills to present scientific research in an effective manner. All these skills will be necessary for any student to succeed with confidence in their chosen career path.
Based on my past teaching experience from teaching, the most important aspect of teaching any class on any level of education, from elementary school to university, has always been the question of how to reach my students in the most effective way for them to benefit the most from my classes. If I want my students to succeed not only in my class, but also in their chosen careers, I need to convey my message in a way that furthers critical understanding, not just memorizing facts and repeating them in an exam. Motivation and student engagement are critical aspects of this approach. Therefore, I strive to adapt my teaching methods to be as learner oriented as possible and adjust them to any particular class situation. For example, group work fosters a team environment, and relating a class subject to its present day context ensures grounding in actual life experiences. Another way to keep a continuous interest is to share personal anecdotes whenever appropriate. This will also help to create a positive student-teacher relationship, which will in turn encourage students to be more engaged.
An important aspect of my teaching philosophy is appropriate assessments. I instruct my students on conducting independent scientific research and pay specific attention to quality assignments as an adequate means of evaluation and, depending on class size, individual or group oral presentations. I favour this method of evaluating students over written tests and exams because the student will be empowered to apply his/her own research, make own interpretations and practice presentation skills, which are an essential tool in today’s business and academic world. A constructive evaluation of the students’ work rounds up this integral part of my teaching duties. This last portion is especially important to a student’s development: Identifying weaknesses to be improved and encouraging strengths form the basis of any positive learning environment.
II. Biographical Overview
In my current institution, George Brown College, I am teaching World Religions. Previously, I also taught two classes on Monotheistic Religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, focussing more on Western religious traditions.
III. Teaching Responsibilities
1. As Faculty Lecturer at McGill University in 2002 I have been responsible for teaching a multidisciplinary class as well as an introductory class:
a. RELG 314: Medicine and Healing in Ancient Israel
The idea for this course originated during the preparations for my post-doctoral research on disabilities in the Old Testament. It focused on a combination of Biblical and Oriental Studies as well as a significant portion in History of Medicine. The relatively small class size allowed for a personable atmosphere favoring discussion and an exchange of ideas between myself and the students, who were for the most part not necessarily familiar with the historical and religious background of the taught subject matter. After an overview of the specific medical situation in the Ancient Near Eastern world, we proceeded to a more detailed discussion of various Old Testament texts concerning health matters and rounding up the class with an outlook to later time periods including present day attitudes towards minority groups such as disabled people.
The method of evaluation I chose was a mixture of class participation, final exam and a written assignment with oral presentation as the most important part to ensure the largest amount of fairness, which was unanimously considered as very good by all students during the class evaluation. Questions about the instructor’s clarity and coherence and class organization were answered very favorably as well. The opportunity to ask questions during the class was widely appreciated by the students.
b. RELG 201: Religions in the Ancient Near East
Compared to the previous course, this was a very different class setting. Mainly addressed to undergraduate students, it is one of the faculty’s most visited classes. The objective is to give a comprehensive overview of the various religions in the Ancient Near East, preparing the students for the follow-up class covering Ancient Israel. I chose to use the well-known collection “The Ancient Near East. Vol. I. An Anthology of Texts and Pictures” by James Pritchard as a base for the introduction of various religions and cultures. The prime focus was naturally on Ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, as well as some other regions like Ugarit. Due to my interest in Canaanite Religion in Ancient Israel, my personal objective was to transmit these mostly polytheistic religions in contrast to the monotheistic development of later Judaism, which was to be taught in the subsequent class. Therefore, I always related each of the religions to the situation in Ancient Israel.
The class size did not permit for an oral presentation by each of the students during the course, but in order to develop their research skills I opted nevertheless for the completion of two assignments. With the help of my TA Cory Labrecque, every student received a constructive evaluation of their first assignment, which was in many cases their very first scientific work ever, leading to an overall improvement of all second assignments. In some cases, and only by request of a student who wishes to do so, I allowed for an oral presentation to improve the student’s mark, which was very much appreciated by the respective students.
2. During my time as postdoctoral researcher at Kyoto University I am presently conducting a seminar for graduate students on my research subject “Disabilities and Religion” which was spread over the last three terms, each with a specific focus:
① Disabilities in the Ancient Near East
② Disabilities in Ancient Israel and
③ The “disabled God” as theological concept
While the first two terms were largely based on my previous class on the subject of Health in the Ancient Near East, enhanced with some new research results from my present stay, the third term is providing the students with a new theological concept and broadens the horizon from the traditional biblical approach. On the background of Liberation theology, Nancy Eiesland developed her theology of the “Disabled God” which forms he base for discussion in the seminar. Since most of the students are well trained in Philosophy of Religion, it is quite natural that the discussions not only surround biblical issues, but fundamentally theological ones as well.
Due to the small size of the department in general, the class atmosphere is very personal. Yet, since Japanese graduate students are generally extremely motivated and very serious about their studies, this guarantees for continuous participation and stimulating discussions.
3. After my return to Canada, I spent the school year 2005/06 teaching at a school for children with learning disabilities in Ajax, Ontario, before I had the opportunity to use my work experience of over 15 years to teach two courses in French at Collège Boréal in Toronto. A major characteristic of both courses was that the students were predominantly from French-speaking African countries with different discussion styles. So, managing a culturally very diverse class my third language was an interesting challenge of this assignment.
a. GÉE 1002: Observation en ESE
This course was addressed to first year ECE students and consisted of 14 weeks of instruction on how to observe children in a daycare objectively, followed by a prearranged one-week internship at a participating daycare, where the students were to apply the skills learned in the course. The assessment consisted of two midterm exams based on the textbook used in class, as well as a report on the internship, counting for 50% of the mark.
b. GÉE 1035: Besoins particuliers en service de garde
This course was addressed to second year ECE students, rounding off their education with 10 weeks of instruction into Special Needs children. Following this course the students were to enter a final five-week internship at a prearranged daycare, which was not part of this course. Due to my extensive experience with alternative therapies of brain-injured children, it gave me great pleasure to teach this class and provide ample examples of my own background. Assessment consisted of two midterm tests based on the textbook and two written assignments, one individual and one a group presentation. A highlight of this course was the visit of guest speaker Paul Madaule of The Listening Center in Toronto who enlightened us about hearing disabilities and their possible consequences in daily life (see picture).
4. As part of my College Teacher Training at George Brown College, I had the opportunity to teach the following course in the Dept. of Liberal Arts and Science as an intern and continued to teach it subsequently as a Part-time professor:
c. GHUM 1052: World Religions
This General Education course is designed as an elective for students in programs such as Nursing and Hospitality to introduce unfamiliar religious concepts to the students who will in their career likely encounter a clientele from a multicultural background. The course covers introductory material about Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Assessment were made based on three midterm tests and two written assignments, the first one being a brief outline of the longer, final assignment on the same subject. Various guest speakers have honoured us with their presence: Tulsi Dharel spoke about his Hindu upbringing and experiences from his native Nepal and Gordana Icevska, the former PEN lecturer-in-residence, shared some of her experiences from the war-torn former Yugoslavia, a country separated along religious lines. The Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, Director of the Canadian Council of Churches gave us a vivid introduction into Christianity on another occasion.
As part of a hands-on learning process, I have included field trips to different religious sites, such as the BAPS Mandir, St-James Cathedral, the Toronto downtown mosque or the Tibetan Buddhist Centre in Toronto into my classes.
d. GHUM 1202: Monotheistic Religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam
This course was part of an undergraduate degree program offered in conjunction with Ryerson University in Toronto. As indicated above, it concentrated more on the three Western religions, but with more depth. It included readings and comparisons from the major sources of those religions, i.e. Hebrew Bible, New testament and the Qur’an.
III. Recent Teaching Evaluations
My latest teaching evaluation showed my effectiveness as a teacher at the same level as all teachers at George Brown College and the course was rated higher than the average course for the entire college.
IV. Teaching Effectiveness
Here are some student comments that I received after each of the courses:
Zachary Stern wrote in a personal communication after class (RELG 314): “Thank you for the class, professor Hentrich. I got a lot out of it. I appreciate that you still offered to teach the class despite the low turnout. It showed a depth of character and interest.”
Katherine Divolis commented to me after the course (RELG 201): “Thank you for the opportunity you gave me to raise my mark! Dr. Hentrich, you are a great teacher, I will surely recommend your classes to other students.”
Here is a comment I received from Toshihiko Imade before I returned back to Canada from Japan: “I will miss you very much. I would like to say to you a lot of thanks. You have widened my knowledge about the Old Testament. Especially, I was very interested in your discussion about Ancient Mesopotamian medical science.”
I received these comments from students in the GHUM 1052 course: “Thank you very much for your very interesting course World Religion – I have got a lot of new important information about other religions. Today the world is much more multicultural than it was before so people should learn more about other cultures' beliefs and values. Such courses as World Religion greatly assist us in achieving this goal.”
“Best class ever …Religion is needed in school to reduce school violence by understanding others more!!!”
“It’s been a great course. I learned a lot, it was very interesting.”
V. Professional Development
The most important step towards improving my teaching competencies has been the completion of the College Teacher Training Program at George Brown College in 2007. It included a practical teaching internship as well as theoretical workshops, such as WebCT, WIDS, and Outcomes-based Teaching. Most recently, I was trained in e-learning and developed an online version of the World Religion class.
VI. Future Goals
I immensely enjoy the interaction with my students, especially when the class size permits a more personalized teaching environment. Teaching Japanese students has been especially rewarding as not only are they benefiting from my knowledge, but also in turn my teaching skills benefit from their motivation and inquisitiveness.
 Dan Pratt – John Collins, Summary of Five Perspectives on 'Good Teaching', www.one45.com/teachingperspectives/tpi_html/tpi_summaries.htm, (Accessed on December 4, 2007).
 Personal email from June 17, 2002.
 Personal email from December 7, 2002.
 Personal email from November 4, 2004.
 Personal email from Elena Calinina (December 9, 2007).
 Student comment after Fall 2008 session.
 Personal email from Robert Chauharjasingh (April 15, 2008).