Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Short Philosophy of Teaching

I was recently asked about my teaching philosophy. An excellent question. Here is a first attempt at an answer:

Guide but not lead, suggest but not compel, challenge but not frustrate, inspire but not indoctrinate, ground in accepted wisdom but not inhibit from individual exploration, provide tools for a lifetime but not ignore the satisfaction of even the smallest steps in learning: these serve as the basic principles of my philosophy of teaching. I believe teaching must be focused on output, what students can take with them from the classroom experience, rather than on teaching input, particularly in the form of ideologies of instruction. Context ought to be the key—and teaching style bent to that context. To that end, I have used question and answer formats, problems, written assignments discussed in class, lecture, and discussion in my classes. But teaching requires listening as well as speaking. Its essence is engagement—with the materials and with the class. An ideal class creates a community in which the relational dynamic between teacher and students ought to change from the beginning to the end of the course term from one that focuses on the teacher to one in which students show greater confidence and become more active agents in the attainment of knowledge. This ideal is, of course, difficult to achieve. It requires work and a sensitivity to the needs of a class. These needs change not only with the scope of the materials to be covered and the talents of the students, but with the internal dynamics of any particular class.

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