Philosophy of Teaching
Your concept of teaching, including a description of how you teach and the justifications for your strategies, constitute your personal philosophy of teaching. Read Faculty Focus regularly for new information that will expand and modify your philosophy of teaching.
January 14 - Nine Characteristics of a Great Teacher
Years ago, as a young, eager student, I would have told you that a great teacher was someone who provided classroom entertainment and gave very little homework. Needless to say, after many years of K-12 administrative experience and giving hundreds of teacher evaluations, my perspective has changed. My current position as a professor in higher education gives me the opportunity to share what I have learned with current and future school leaders, and allows for some lively discussions among my graduate students in terms of what it means to be a great teacher.
Teaching philosophy statements are now prepared for a variety of reasons: as part of a job application process; to be included in a promotion and tenure dossier; for a teaching award; or to foster reflection about how and why you teach. Regardless of purpose, the goal ought to be preparation of statements that reveal those beliefs and practices characteristic of an individual teacher. Writing teaching philosophy statements that accurately describe the instructional self isn’t easy, given that so many of us begin teaching careers with little training and continue them with episodic professional development. A set of resources can do much to assist the process and an impressive collection appears in the article referenced below.
February 3 - Helping Students with Disabilities Reach Their Educational Goals: Reflections and Lessons Learned
There has long been the debate as to whether college is right for everyone. I follow the school of thought that college should be open to everyone and they may decide if it is the right fit for them. The educational realm has evolved so well that many students who could not even fathom college in the past are now attending and flourishing.
Out-of-class communication makes student-teacher relationships more personal and contributes to student learning. It is also the wellspring for continued academic exchange and mentoring. Unfortunately, electronic consultations via email have diminished the use of in-person office hours. Although students and faculty favor email contact because it’s so efficient, interpersonal exchanges still play an important role in the learning process—much research verifies this. As teachers we have a responsibility to encourage, indeed entice, our students to meet with us face-to-face.
As an undergrad, I put myself through school waiting tables – a truly humbling experience that made me a better instructor. With a mission of 100% customer satisfaction and my livelihood on the line, the patron’s experience became my highest priority.
Taking that mindset into the classroom, I strove for 100% student satisfaction – within the confines of academic integrity, of course – and achieved great results. It turns out, oddly enough, that students love being important, valued, respected, and honored. And through the resulting faculty-student connection, students willingly transform into vessels of learning.
March 29 - Four Characteristics of Successful Teachers
The quest to identify the ingredients, components, and qualities of effective instruction has been a long one. Starting in the 1930s, researchers sought to identify the common characteristics of good teachers. Since then, virtually everybody who might have an opinion has been asked, surveyed, or interviewed. Students have been asked at the beginning, middle, and end of their college careers. Alumni have been asked years after graduating. Colleagues within departments and across them have been asked, as have administrators, from local department heads to college presidents.
Still finishing up? I remember one semester when I was doing my final grading in my office on a Saturday morning. It was very close to Christmas. I finally finished, submitted the grades, and exuberantly headed home with Christmas music on the radio far louder than it should have been. It was such a relief to finally be finished. At a stop light, I was singing with the radio and thinking about making Christmas cookies. The light changed and I zoomed forward, failing to notice the car in front of me had not zoomed forward. I did not exuberantly drive the rest of the way home.
September 15 - Being Ariadne: Helping Students Find Their Way
Thinking and writing metaphorically is often a recommended way to clarify one’s approach to teaching. Having a particular mental image provides a reference point, or compass, to guide teaching decisions and actions. There are many interesting and colorful characters in Greek mythology that might serve as possible metaphorical models for teaching faculty.
September 7 - Finding the Inconsistencies
The previous blog post featured two quotes advocating reflection about teaching philosophy and teaching practice. The goal is to discover discrepancies (if there are any) between what one believes about teaching and how one teaches. The problem? It’s darn difficult to be objective about one’s teaching. We just have too much of ourselves invested in
“Conscientious pedagogical reflection is necessary to produce a complete, well-developed teaching philosophy. The absence of pedagogical reflection can result in daily instruction that fails to reflect an instructor’s teaching philosophy or instructional belief system accurately. In particular, an underdeveloped teaching philosophy may translate into a teaching style full of inconsistencies, characterized by poorly coordinated and designed instruction.” (p. 182)