"When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it; this is knowledge." -Confucius
Teaching figures prominently in my career goals and plans. I am dedicated to providing quality education to students, in addition to any other roles I may have in my professional life. As a result, I have formulated a philosophy of teaching that incorporates my beliefs about educating students, my role as an educator, and the roles of my students.
This document will introduce my beliefs about how learning occurs in a classroom, discuss how I address various practical issues, and detail my plans for professional growth as a teacher.
I believe that in order for a teacher to be effective, a good working relationship between educator and student must be developed and maintained.
This is the primary factor in leading a successful course and is the primary focus of my attention. A teacher needs to be understandable, relatable, approachable, and foster comfort, enthusiasm, and motivation in students.
A good working relationship is necessary for the instructor to truly teach and the student to productively learn. This can be accomplished in many ways, but the primary paths in my experience have been through fostering an open and comfortable academic atmosphere, setting clear goals and objectives, providing students with numerous opportunities to succeed, and effectively communicate desire for success.
An integral component to teaching is to be flexible in teaching and learning styles.
A successful educator needs to be able to adapt to the varied and changing needs of a student and student population. Some students learn best by reading, others by hearing, and still others by doing. Some students need to be pushed and actively encouraged, and others need independence to thrive. Some students are comfortable speaking out in class and others will not be.
A successful teacher needs to be able to adapt to these and other conditions, simultaneously giving diverse students what they need to succeed.
The role of a student is to utilize the tools and knowledge provided to learn and, more importantly, understand, classroom material. The role of a teacher is to provide students with all of the tools and information necessary for understanding to take place, as well as encouragement and facilitation required as a catalyst in the learning process.
Thus, learning occurs when the student puts forth the necessary effort to learn, the teacher puts forth the ingredients necessary for the student to learn, as well as the enthusiasm or motivation needed to inspire students to truly engage their effort to integrate classroom material into their experience.
There are numerous practices that I employ to reach these goals:
First, I carefully design a syllabus to be attractive and easy to read. This immediately introduces me as an instructor who cares about his students' experience in the class. I also make the syllabus comprehensive, addressing any foreseeable question the student may have at the outset of the course. This conveys that I am coming prepared and that the course is well-planned, encouraging students to adopt similar attitudes.
Class material is presented in a lecture format, which is prone to frequent interruptions for questions and comments. Students should always feel welcome to contribute. Classes are paced to allow for such interruptions.
Class material is presented in a professional and academic manner, with at least a few points of humor in each class. This conveys that the material is serious and important, but should be appreciated as not overwhelming. Also, this helps create associations between the material and positive feelings brought on by the infusion of humor.
In fact, I try to infuse all lectures with a certain informality and friendliness; I wish to always remain accessible, practically as well as intellectually. This fosters a supportive, encouraging, collegiate environment which respects the academic material and fosters positive feelings about the material, if only by association.
I address different learning styles by presenting material at least 3 times, in at least 3 ways. I make information accessible to be read in a textbook, as well as in instructor-prepared study guides that present material similar to how it is presented in class. I also spend much time in lectures reiterating or rephrasing information. In terms of evaluation, I tend to base grades off of both multiple-choice and essay formats.
Thus, a student can thrive in the class irrespective of whether they are better to answer multiple-choice or essay-type questions. Additionally, this provides an opportunity for students to have experience with multiple evaluative approaches, better preparing them for the future. In addition, students receive very prompt feedback (assignments and exams are usually graded within 24-48 hours).
I envision many years of teaching in my future.
As I am still early in my career, I plan on developing this philosophy as my experiences develop. I also plan on broadening my teaching experience to include smaller (<30 students), larger (>100 students) and individual-level experiences. I plan on teaching more subjects and, more broadly, serve as mentor for trainees, teaching on several levels at once. I look forward to all of these opportunities with excitement.