Institutions of higher learning generate and propagate knowledge. They do this through the advancement of research and teaching. High quality research expands the base of human knowledge and effective teaching incorporates that knowledge into the collective psyche of society. As an individual’s learning grows their capacity to enrich their life and lives of others grows. My teaching philosophy is built around advancing the cause of human knowledge and the immense benefit that knowledge can have on others.
Effective teaching begins with a well-prepared instructor. Academic research is one of the best sources of preparation. I find that as I am engaged in exploring the depths of my field my lectures gain new and interesting content. A well-prepared instructor connects topics from within the classroom to current events. Real-world examples and imagery capture the attention of the students and lead to more successful outcomes. Being well-prepared also means knowing your audience; lectures should be tailored to fit the needs of students that are excelling as well as those that are struggling. When I am well prepared I can exude the enthusiasm that I have for the subject matter I teach.
Effective learning is achieved when students understand and apply course concepts to new situations. This implies that a lecture is not a stream of facts containing islands of information unrelated to each other; students should see the connection between concepts and create ligatures from idea to idea. I foster this type of learning by encouraging participation in and out of class. I feel that I have only accomplished my job when the class becomes an environment that is safe for students to express their ideas and participate in discussions. When discussions do occur, I assume the role of facilitator, bringing up questions, probing for deeper thoughts, and encouraging students to respond to each other.
Effective assessments are the culminating event in any classroom. Assessments of what has been learned gauge the students’ understanding of both complex and elementary course concepts. Fairly structured exams include material in the course syllabus and in the course description. This establishes proper expectations for the students. To help students meet the rigors of a challenging course or to have additional discussions with bright and curious minds, I am always available.
I gauge my success by asking myself the following questions. Are my students more likely to think critically about a problem? Are my students gaining the tools and preparation necessary for the job market? Are my students able to take the knowledge and truth they learn in my class and positively impact others?