It’s time again for me to write a statement of teaching philosophy. My limit is one page. My brain is not working as well as one might hope. Here’s what I have for the middle. I’m still working on the intro and conclusion, which obviously will require edits to the middle. What do you think?
One important lesson I learned from my mentors and peers was that being able to critically engage material is a paramount skill for our students. This skill, critical thinking, is invaluable for a broad range of occupations our students may enter; I believe all students who graduate from SI should be able to think critically. Critical thinking transcends disciplines, and using it as a cornerstone for my approach to teaching enables me to adapt to a variety of teaching and learning environments from classrooms to one-on-one sessions with students and GSIs. The respect for intellectual diversity and collaboration that my mentors and peers have demonstrated and encouraged in me are compliments to a focus on critical thinking. The kind of classroom or other learning environment that best facilitates critical thinking relies on the diverse intellectual contributions and approaches of others.
Respecting intellectual diversity means that it is my responsibility as an instructor to foster learning environments where students are encouraged to call upon a variety of ways to view a particular situation and in which students come to value multiple perspectives. One important way I foster intellectual diversity is by doing my best to take neutral stances on controversial or disruptive material. I also encourage students to ask, “What’s another way to look at this?” even when the “this” is a claim I’ve made about the material.
Respecting intellectual diversity also requires that I take into account the varieties of ways in which students learn. Providing material in a variety of formats and using a range of teaching styles — including class discussion, role playing, and individual engagement produces a positive learning environment in which all students can feel safe and respected. I use a variety of aptitude measures when I can so that students have opportunities to demonstrate their skills and to develop new ones. For example, when teaching Social Systems and Collections, I used classroom participation, short essay tests, and long paper writing to check for students’ understanding. When training GSIs authoring assignments for their courses, I’ve helped create short answer, concept mapping, and essay assignments. Using a variety of methods to check for understanding caters to different sets of intellectual strengths and challenges students to develop skills where they have weaknesses.
Remaining neutral, encouraging students to think of different ways of looking at material, presenting material in a variety of ways, and using multiple methods to check for understanding ultimately creates for students an learning environment in which they can learn the skills to reasonably process and generate information and to develop habits of using those critical thinking skills. Such an environment helps students learn to be precise and logical, to communicate effectively and respectfully, and to analyze information.