Paul Stephenson - by Jayda Gonsalvez
Paul Stephenson, a passionate and driven instructor in the ESL and International Education department at Okanagan College, is eager and enthusiastic to promote and share his new insights on learning-centered theories with all faculty and students members. The ILLT has been a rewarding new endeavor of Paul’s; he was elected in February as the founding Fellow for ESL and International Education. The steering committee of the ILLT has met for over two years to articulate a philosophy, and the Kelowna campus’ dynamic and diverse learning environment has provided Paul with a forum to express ideas, connect with students and fellow co-workers, and has encouraged him and other faculty members to strive for better student-teacher relationships.
Paul believes this new and dynamic educational approach will empower students to achieve better communication and understanding, thereby reflecting on the student’s academic success. To promoting better student-teacher relationships, Paul recommends students “help your teachers understand what scares you, what excites you, what you know and what you want to learn.” Paul’s message to faculty members is, “don’t be afraid of trying new things in your classroom. Learn from your students. Let the students have power.” This strategy encourages students to learn from each other and promotes teachers to act as facilitators and designers; this benefits both parties.
“As the educational act becomes more democratic, learners will feel greater engagement and therefore greater satisfaction which can only make a stronger Okanagan College community,” says Paul. He believes learner-centered education involves re-assessing five important areas: balance of power, function of content, roles of teachers, the responsibility for learning, and evaluation. He suggests that slowly and one at a time, each area will be addressed only when and as the teacher feels comfortable in making such changes.
“While perfection is impossible, learner centered teaching exists within the art of the possible.”
Paul’s idea of success within the ILLT is seeing students become enveloped, engaged and excited with a dynamic learning process. Students who drive their own learning agendas motivate and inspire teachers and fellow classmates. He advocates that having open ended discussion with other members of the ILLT “who are just as passionate as I am about teaching” has been the most rewarding part of being an ILLT member. Paul is happy to discuss the ILLT’s status with anyone who will listen!
In addition to dedicating his time to the ILLT and the ESL department, Paul is an avid member of the Okanagan Wheelers. For him, joining the wheelers was a step towards improving Okanagan College’s facilities for cyclists, and furthermore a promotion of a healthy environment. If more people are encouraged to ride rather than drive then it’s a step closer to a better environment for the Okanagan. Paul likes to lead by example and he is globally minded.
“We are globally all connected,” Paul said, when speaking of the college, the ILLT and the ESL department. “Human fears, joys and aspirations transcend national boundaries. The ILLT aims to liberate learners and teachers to enable them to embrace new ideas and new ways of thinking by breaking down the traditional barriers between learners and teachers and overcoming the fears that restrict our learning journey.”