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.
March 21 - In Defense of Teaching
Mark Twain once remarked that “All generalizations are false, including this one.” It seems that we are in a time—an educational crossroads of sorts—when teaching is overgeneralized to the point where it can be difficult for professionals to have meaningful conversations.
Tired descriptors such as “sage on the stage” and “guide on the side” have permeated the pedagogical literature for more than two decades now even though they greatly oversimplify what really takes place in the college classroom. Most teaching occurs on a continuum between these two extremes. But now the term “lecture” is equated with using didactic instruction and nothing else. It is regularly blamed for a multitude of pedagogical problems in the academy. Articles in various educational journals regularly associate teaching with telling and continue to recommend that this traditional method be completely abandoned in favor of more student-centered strategies that promote active learning.
September 30 - Three Teaching Styles
The most effective teachers vary their styles depending on the nature of the subject matter, the phase of the course, and other factors. By so doing, they encourage and inspire students to do their best at all times throughout the semester.
It is helpful to think of teaching styles according to the three Ds: Directing, Discussing, and Delegating.
July 17 - Remembering Our Mission to Teach
Have you ever become so frustrated with students and overwhelmed by your workload that you start questioning what you are doing? At times it can feel suffocating. Baruti Kafele, an educator and motivational speaker offers a perspective of being mission oriented to educators and others working with young people in our nation’s classrooms. He suggests affirming your goals and motivations to facilitate successes among students. However, in the college classroom, it is also essential that we, as faculty members, remember and affirm our purpose, acknowledge the contributions we make in students’ lives and professional pursuits, and respect the call or passion that brought each of us to the teaching profession.
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.