Skeletal form of my new Teaching Statement


A few posts back I mentioned that I was working on my statement of teaching philosophy. Here’s a very early “beta” version of the new statement. I’d appreciate it, if you’re interested, if you’d have a look and leave notes in the comments. I’d especially be interested in any part of this statement that isn’t perfectly clear; as we all know, some things can be clear in our own minds when we write, but to the reader, not so much.

One note: I will eventually expand each of the “six precepts” below with a sentence or two of what I actually do in real life to implement each one. But I haven’t gotten to that yet.

STATEMENT OF TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

“Listen!” said the White Spirit. “Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers, and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again: even now.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

Inquiry and learning are the highest forms of human activity. Indeed, to inquire and learn is to access that which makes us uniquely human: The ability to look within and outside ourselves, question what what we see, take action to frame and explore those questions with disciplined creativity, and take satisfaction in finding the answers and in the collateral questions that arise. The goal of an education is to lead students into this kind of life, both by instruction and by example, preparing them for meaningful work and childlike wonder at things larger than themselves. My calling in life is to be a teacher — to contribute to helping students reach the goal of being truly educated and to lead them into a lifelong state of satisfying inquiry and learning.

My teaching is driven and informed by six basic precepts:

1. Every student has inherent value and the capacity to learn.

2. Every student should be held to high academic expectations and given responsibility for their own learning in every course.

3. If students’ expectations and responsibilities are high, the professor’s availability, flexibility, and willingness to help must also be high.

4. On the one hand, since courses are the formal framework for student learning, they should be characterized by:
(a) Grading practices which are fair, constructive, and transparent;
(b) Learning activities which are well-conceived, organized, and effective;
(c) Rules which are transparent and fairly enforced, but also with flexibility and mercy in mind.

5. On the other hand, since learning does not take place only within a course, the professor should interface with his students and college so that:
(a) The professor’s scholarly activities are vital and made accessible to students.
(b) Informal conversations about teaching and learning are held in the clear and made accessible to students. [Note: Insert reference to Twitter and this blog here.]
(c) The professor’s personal and family life is visible to students, and the professor presents himself as a complete person engaged in teaching and learning.
(d) The professor engages himself with the lives of his students and of the college.

6. All aspects of teaching are drive by the professor’s own love for teaching and learning and by the fundamental, inherent value of the student as a human being.

5 Comments

Filed under Education, Higher ed, Life in academia, Teaching

5 responses to “Skeletal form of my new Teaching Statement

  1. virusdoc

    Coming out of my first semester teaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own philosophy of teaching, so I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing. I had a few observations that I think might help you tighten the next draft:

    #1 and #6 seem internally redundant. Since #6 has more content, I would recommend deleting #1.

    The use of the conditional “if” in #3 makes it sound like your “availability, flexibility, and willingness to help” are determined by the attitude of the students, and I suspect that’s not true. Deleting the conditional phrase fixes this, but you may wish to state your expectations of your students in a separate precept.

    #4b: “well conceived” is redundant. That’s the only way to get an “organized, effective” learning experience.

    #5b. The phrase “held in the clear and made accessible” is vague. Do you mean simply that these discussions should be public and publicized?

    #5c. What specifically do you think is the educational advantage of making your family life visible to students? I ask because I feel the same way about personal transparency, but so far my family life hasn’t seemed relevant to my teaching.

  2. @virusdoc – Regarding family life, I guess I summed it up by saying I want students to see that I am a “complete person”. It’s very easy for students to objectify college professors or to see them ONLY as college professors, and not people with real-life concerns and responsibilities and things that make them happy, and they get the sense that the life of the mind is for people who forego family, friends, and so on to do nothing but learn all the time. I want to show students that being committed to learning and having a life are not mutually exclusive.

    And I think students are more likely to learn from you if you appear to be a normal person in most respects.

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  5. elementaryteacher

    Sorry, somehow I saw your other post (where I left my long comments) and didn’t see this one.

    This is MUCH improved, but still needs some cutting.

    Cut out everything before “My calling in life is to be a teacher…..” Why? Because this is a statement of YOUR philosophy, NOT White Spirit, NOT C.S. Lewis.

    In number 4, reword MUCH shorter–ALL points into ONE clear sentence.

    In 5, keep point b (expanding it slightly) and cutting out all other parts of 5. Get it into ONE clear sentence.

    Eliminate 6, while true, it is redundant.

    You’ve made excellent progress here. Tighten it up more. If I were a student, this statement would make me WANT to come to your class (unlike the long, more wordy, previous version).

    Eileen
    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in the Middle East)
    elementaryteacher.wordpress.com