A Progressive Teaching Philosophy

“The self-paced nature of exploratory learning  relies on the notion that effective learning environments actively
engage students with the material and promote meaningful associations between new material and information already known.”    B. Jean Mandernach, PhD


This was an intriguing, at times tough task. Having two years of collegiate teaching under my belt before taking  this course, it was very easy to say what my philosophy is than actually put on paper. Nevertheless, I tried to stick pretty close to what Dr. Christian Matheis guide instructed, and particularly how he organized his thinking.

Before diving into some of my own core beliefs that made up my teaching philosophy draft, I wanted to note several things I saw especially helpful in reading the ‘Faculty Focus’ piece. Of all the authors I felt most connected to Dr. B Jean Mandernach’s introspective, especially in her candid approach to students who enrolled in her psychology courses and the differing backgrounds they each had. I especially struck a chord with her belief in instructors who believe it their responsibility “to determine exactly what I expect students to understand after completing my course, then to facilitate student learning so that every student reaches this level.”

As mentioned in other blogs (and likely will reemphasize in future ones) and to my fellow-GEDIs in training, I personally place a high priority on knowing individually why each student in my class has enrolled, what is their major (current or expected), previous work they have done related to the course, and what each one hopes to gain from the course. Luckily, I have thus far taught history courses that do not exceed 40 students in enrollment capacity. At the beginning of each semester I assign a fairly easy assignment for them, “Day One Post.” Usually I grade this as 5% of their total grade. This post asks specifically the same things I wish to know about them. By the end of Add/Drop, we start class then showing a word cloud with key words I identified from their posts.

I really see this level of instructor to student understanding, as Dr. Madernach emphasizes, as allowing “students the freedom of active learning” and then the instructor’s utilization of their posts to consider the ways and topics used and discussed in class; what I call a more progressive and democratic level of teaching. As a product of liberal arts and humanities-based higher education, I believe that the best citizens of the world are those who are the most, to quote E.D. Hirsch, Jr., ‘culturally literate,’ or those who master the ability to understand and participate fluently in a given culture opposite of their own. As an interdisciplinary historian and public humanist, I have adhere to exposing student to diverse opinions, methods, sources, and theories that complicate, fascinate, and stimulate their learning process. No matter their background, I promise any and every of my students that I will supportive in their development, especially concerning development as writers and critical thinkers.

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