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Teaching Philosophy

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  • 1. Teaching PhilosophyTeaching is a circular process. This process involves gathering information, developingtangible means to facilitate learning, presenting it in fashion relevant to a particularclass, receiving feedback from students, and re-calibrating the preliminary steps asneeded. I believe that the best teachers are those who eye their own strategiescritically and actively seek to improve their teaching strategies, through implementingnew technologies and innovative learning activities, rather than handle the glaringdeficiencies in their teaching style as they arise. With my brief teaching experience, Ihave observed that teaching is actually a reciprocal exchange: the student learns thecourse content of a particular discipline in the overarching objectives of a liberaleducation and the instructor hones their teaching style to reach out to a diverse learningbody. I approach teaching with the humility that I myself am learning how to teach as Iimpart knowledge and skills to students, a position that I believe students will take noteof by the end of a course.As a librarian and perpetual seeker of information, I was struck by the lack of intellectualstimulation in many college courses I have taken. Though not all students are born withan intellectual curiosity that compels them seek new information, I believe that the bestprofessors are ones who stimulate students to find information outside of the classroom.These professors leave a mark on students well after the course had ended. I havedeveloped two strategies for creating lifelong learners. One is to present conflictingaccounts of a particular issue to stir up cognitive dissonance and thereby drive studentsto find answers autonomously. The second strategy in developing perpetual learners isto engage them in the Socratic Method, which often take the form of pro/con debates,critical thinking questions interspersed between lengthy lectures, and critical responsepapers. Through this dialectical method, I am confident that students will takeownership of the content they are learning.In developing a learner-centered environment, I will, by my actions, emphasize theimportance of students’ learning over the adherence to a rigid course outline. One thestrategies to overcome the tension between rigid outlines and students’ acquisition ofnew data and skills is routine assessment. I believe that assessment can occurinformally in the classroom. One of my strategies for gauging my effectiveness is tofocus on students’ nonverbal gestures (i.e. blank stares, tense postures) to determine ifstudents ‘get it’. When I notice a number of these signals, I stop and ask students ifthey grasping the information. I follow that question with a sufficient pause to allowreluctant students to voice their confusions. Another strategy is to pass out note cardstowards the end of class in which students are instructed to write what they found mostintriguing about the day’s lecture and most perplexing. I would then spend a fewminutes in the following class meeting to discuss reoccurring areas of confusion.Teaching in a post-modern environment is acutely challenging. Students come fromincreasingly divergent ethnic and income/class backgrounds and have been socializedinto different value systems. Due to my own faith background, I am keenly aware of theclash of cultures that can occur when discussing issues in a course on marriage andfamily. I encourage students to interact with the content of the course and the opinions
  • 2. of their peers in a civil fashion. One of the latent objectives of my teaching style is tohelp students understand how different value orientations and racial/ethnic andsocioeconomic backgrounds shape how we interpret the social world. In doing so,students will appreciate diversity not for the novelty of diversity but for its ability tounderstanding the world holistically.I approach teaching sociology as a ‘debunker of social myths’, as sociologist PeterBerger suggests. I strive to move students beyond ‘pro’ and ‘con’ arguments to asynthesis of different accounts of reality that transcends dichotomous thinking about atopic. I believe that the most rewarding part of teaching is the ‘a-ha’ moments thatteaching affords, moments where students see new light on issues that were previouslyresolved in their minds. I seek to move students in my classes from mere receptaclesfor my knowledge to individuals whose evaluate and synthesize ideas, articulate theirbeliefs and engage the beliefs of others, and integrate of new perspectives with pre-existing beliefs. I strive to make students aware of their intellectual potential through myteaching and encourage them to go beyond a superficial grasp of the course’s content.