I’m guessing that some of you have created a teaching philosophy statement at some point. I am in the process of applying for adjunct positions in the D.C. area, and this is one of the requirements for a few of the of the applications. If you have some free time to offer feedback on my first crack at a teaching philosophy statement, please do. Also, if you have one that you’d like for me to review, post it and I’ll return the favor.
Thus far, my teaching experience has been limited to providing instruction to high school students, and workshop facilitation at the community level for youth, young adults and adult learners. However, these experiences have informed my current teaching philosophy, especially matters pertaining to classroom management, expectations and collective learning.
Classroom Management and Strategic Engagement. For the most part, young adult and adult learners will self-govern and work towards established expectations. However, there are times when this is not the case. In my first teaching experience, I worked with students who were not all that excited about spending their summer in a classroom. I had to overcome some personalities that were blatantly oppositional to structure and progress. What I gain from this experience was the ability to “partner” with the outliers. The outliers are those that are totally withdrawn from the learning process and/or those attempting to take command of the learning environment. These type of behaviors are usually a result of some unmet need expressing itself at the wrong place and time. When I identify outliers, I will attempt to incorporate the student’s talents and [when possible and appropriate] their unmet need(s) into my teaching strategy. This technique will give an individual the opportunity to shine without being disruptive.
Expectations, Transparency and Accountability: The Path to an Enjoyable Learning Experience. I believe educators should clearly state what students should expect from the course—and possibly give them some say so in the matter—and clearly state what is expected of the students. The expectations should be outlined in the course syllabus and reiterated throughout the course. I have found that when a professor has provided me with a thoughtful and transparent syllabus, I am able to deliver a solid work product with less anxiety. I have experienced the type of learning that fails to incorporate transparency, and usually the experience is coupled with a myriad of miscommunications. This type of counterproductive learning can be avoided with the establishments of clear expectations. There is less ambiguity with this approach, and it is a great way to hold all parties accountable. As an educator, it is my responsibility to create a learning environment that reduces the anxiety associated with writing, public speaking and “being wrong” in front of strangers.
There is Power in the Collective. We all can read a book and accept what is written. This is not the most effective way learning. Classroom instruction, at its best, offers the opportunity to question content–theories, recollections and practices. Effective learning occurs when content is brought to life, and while it may not be lived-experience, classroom instruction is lived-knowledge. When a student leaves the classroom fresh from a debate about ethics, s/he may recall what a colleague argued before making an important decision. Collective input about content places a high value on traditional learning. However, this requires that all parties, teachers and students alike, bring their best to the classroom. This might entail moments when the teacher shifts from expert to student while still guiding the discussion or moments that introduce new ideas to a dated conversation. Any venture that goes unchallenged is more susceptible to ridicule and failure, and it is my intent to always create a learning environment that is safe for debate, open to lateral and bi-directional learning, and promotes student success.