Philosophy of teaching: I embrace teaching as an opportunity to inspire, educate and empower. As a teacher, it is my goal to enhance student learning as a transformative experience. Ideally, I want students to feel personally challenged and therefore changed by their participation in a course I am teaching. Promoting an understanding that social and political forces shape the construction and utilization of knowledge is central to my philosophy of teaching because it helps students sharpen critical thinking skills in order to enable them to transgress epistemological limitations. One way I work to encourage students to challenge existing boundaries is by teaching them to make the familiar strange and question how they have come to know what they believe to be true about their world. This helps students see boundaries, whether personal or social, as constructed and affords them an opportunity to challenge and move beyond them.
Transformative learning is most likely to occur when students become personally engaged with the material and perceive the subject matter to be directly relevant to their own lives. Understanding the diversity of learning styles and student experiences is key to enhancing this engagement. The process by which I work to stimulate student engagement is unique to each individual and classroom. While students must ultimately take responsibility for their own learning, a teacher can often inspire their desire to learn. Learning about the students I teach and listening to their experiences has helped me to consider ways of making course material relevant and fostering critical thinking skills. I am passionate about finding the most effective ways of stimulating and sustaining intellectual growth among those who enter my classroom. Learning is a complex process that is individual, content and context specific. As a teacher, I am attentive to these factors and work to be flexible, adapting my approaches according to the needs of learners, subject matter and setting. I believe it is crucial for teachers to cultivate learning partnerships with students. In my view, teaching is not about instructing or imparting information to students as if their minds were waiting to be filled with my knowledge. Rather, teaching is igniting transformative learning; empowering students to take responsibility for their learning, inspiring courage to grow intellectually, cultivating curiosity, providing opportunities for developing relationships, clarifying values, uplifting the spirit and igniting action.
In my experience teaching at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, I have worked to operationalize my teaching philosophy. While my teaching objectives vary, depending upon the course level and content, my philosophy serves to inform my practice. In designing course format and evaluation requirements, I strive to optimize student engagement and success. For example, teaching astronomy labs at the undergraduate level, class format is varied and generally includes my own lab presentations accompanied by the use of astronomical equipment which generates creative exercises for stimulating class discussion.
In any teaching context, I work to promote student responsibility for learning by asking each individual what they will contribute to the class and how each person can participate in creating an environment that is stimulating and respectful of diverse views and experiences. In addition, I work to influence learning that occurs outside the classroom by supplementing class time with a wide range of teaching/learning activities including reading, formal and informal writing assignments, internet searches, oral histories, and social action projects. Providing access to my expertise is also a priority in my teaching. I actively encourage dialogue with students during office hours, by appointment, telephone and email. Additionally, I regularly strive to improve my teaching by seeking student feedback, talking with peers, attending teaching seminars, reading and experimenting with new methods. Through these evaluative and informative processes I am continually refining my teaching practices and growing as a teacher/scholar.
Teaching is a privileged position that demands humility as much as respect. It is crucial that teachers recognize the power inherent in their role and are self-reflective about their actions. In my teaching I work to be mindful of my position as a role model of the kind of learning I strive to promote among students. Transformative learning is a reciprocally educative endeavor--informative and uplifting for teachers and students alike. It is about opening hearts and minds and changing lives for all those involved in the process. I know I am successful in my teaching when students tell me that they have learned to see the world through a new lens to think more critically. These are tools of empowerment and rewards of transformative teaching and learning.
Special areas of expertise or research interests: Special education; ethics; philosophy of education
Teaching background: Research Associate, Colby College; Undergraduate Astronomy Lab Instructor. University of Maine; New England College
- Academic degrees: BA, MS, M.Div, MAed, Th.D