My Teaching Philosophy
As a teacher I understand my role first and foremost as an informed facilitator. I am responsible for presenting material, making sure that students reach the course objectives in a timely fashion, and that they are kept on track according to deadlines and assignments. Otherwise, I see myself on an equal footing with my students as we learn with each other as opposed to my being an expert and teaching to them. I develop courses that provide hands-on experiences and practical applications of course objectives, thereby bringing relevance of the course material to a student’s immediate world.
I teach in a way that encourages thinking by challenging students to apply principles and generalizations already learned to new problems and situations relevant to their lives. One example is the term project I require of upper-level students. I task each student to choose an issue that concerns them, to research that issue by addressing and applying the key concepts we cover over the course of the program, and to make both a written and oral presentation of their findings. Through this direct application and critique of learned information students develop their analytical and problem-solving skills and their ability to draw reasonable inferences from observations, to synthesize and integrate information and ideas, to think holistically and creatively, and to distinguish between fact and opinion.
Motivation is the key to learning. Students who see the practical utility of topics we cover in our courses and other learning settings have a natural inducement to learn. During my undergraduate program in Environment and Society, students are required to investigate an on-campus greening project. They are expected to work in teams to research their group’s specific area, be it energy, transportation, curriculum, services, etc. and to create both an assessment of the existing status of the area and a recommendation for the greening of that area. I teach what I know students will need to know as practitioners. Similarly, I not only try to tell students what I think they will need to know but why they will need to know it. I do the latter by using examples of practice situations as part of my introduction to a course topic. In most instances I draw on my own experience for these examples.