July 2014
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My Teaching Philosophy

I have been writing a teaching philosophy and would like to have any feedback from anyone that would like to provide some assistance. Thanks in advance.

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INTRODUCTION

As I write my philosophy regarding teaching it is my belief that I cannot talk about teaching without talking about learning, and thus, I have a teaching/learning philosophy.   I have taken some time to reflect and meditate on fourteen years teaching in the higher education arena, and the hundreds of souls I have had the privilege to provide a learning environment in mathematics.  I have reviewed other teaching philosophies and found them to be interesting and helpful but I did not want to write my philosophy using other peoples words, just because it sounded good on paper.    One piece of advice that I did read regarding writing a teaching philosophy is that the philosophy should reflect the individual.  This hit me hard, and I really appreciated those words of advice.  Again, I believe that teaching and learning are integrated together in the college classroom environment and the online teaching environment.

In conclusion, the words below are what I believe about teaching, learning, and teaching online and this is the core of my belief, and I know this is different and outside the box.

TEACHING

My teaching roles include face to face classes and online classes.  First, I will discuss my face to face philosophy and then I will discuss my online philosophy.  I have taught online mathematics course and introduction to statistics courses.  Although I want to discuss each of these separate, my viewpoint is the same in both formats, but each format has its own idiosyncrasies.

Face To Face Teaching

As a college mathematics instructor, I see myself as a shepherd tending my flock.  The main tool the shepherd uses is a long stick with a hook at the top and is called a crook.  As the shepherd tends their flock and walks the flock along the path, if a sheep is to step out of line, or wonders too far away from the herd, the shepherd using the crook to gently guide the lost sheep back to the herd for grazing and safety.  If a sheep gets tangled in the thickets or fall over a small cliff, the shepherd may use the hook on top to save the sheep from their hazardous situation and lead the sheep back to the flock.

Students attend my classes with various backgrounds and accomplishments regarding their mathematics background.  Some students need little assistance, while some need a lot.  Those who need little assistance, I see myself like the shepherd, and tap them back to the path in their learning.  Those who need a lot, I have to use the hook and gently pull them back to the herd.  Both inside and outside the classroom I see myself as the compassionate shepherd tending my flock each term.

Successful student learning on my part is facilitated by my creating learning activities within the classroom as well as outside of the classroom and providing a positive and active learning environment.  Inside the classroom I provide a positive environment, a respectful environment, and allow for fun and a bit of entertaining atmosphere in the classroom.  I believe that mutual respect goes a long way.  During the classroom time, I employ active learning by providing learning activities that students can work together, and then we can all come together and discuss the results.  The discussion of results sometimes includes having student’s present results on the board, and we can all discuss the results in a positive and productive manner so everyone is on the same page.  Course materials are provided to my students and have proven to aide in the successful learning for my students.  Learning activities outside the classroom are provided on my Learning Management System, Moodle.  There, students are provided with homework and quiz exercises that provide immediate feedback to the students regarding whether their response is correct or not.   If not, the student is allowed to try again and again.  The purpose is to keep trying (not guessing) and allow the student to assess themselves and identify any mistakes and make the appropriate corrections.  I know this is working as I have received positive feedback from many students.

Online Teaching

While participating in my training to teach online, one important area of emphasis was to establish an online presence with students.  While some schools require instructors to sign into their courses M-F, I find that I may have to work in my classes on the weekends, so I will take the needed time for my students and sign into my classes during the weekend, if needed.   I have received positive feedback regarding my presence online and making sure my students know that I am there for them and provide the needed instruction for their success.

Second, to make the online learning experience positive for students, I believe that positive and timely communication is important with online teaching.  During a face to face class, students can ask questions and receive an immediate response, but online, if a student has a question, they have to wait until the instructor signs in, read the question in the discussion board/email, and receive a response from me, unless another student provides an answer which is encouraged in my online classes.  I read each and every post in my discussion boards and make positive and supporting comments.  For example, if a student presents a website that assisted them in their learning, I thank them for posting the website and view the website.  If a student makes a discussion post and the presentation is off base, I thank them for the post and direct them to some additional information and ask for an update and expand on their initial post.  I also make it a priority to respond to emails within 24-48 hours.  In fact, I am able to respond to emails within 24 hours about 90% of the time.  I believe this provides a positive online atmosphere for my students because they know they will have timely communication with me.

LEARNING

I had to look the definition of learning up on dictionary.com.  One form of the definition is stated:  “knowledge acquired by systematic study in a field of scholarly application”.  That’s nice, but I needed more.  One of the best books I ever read is “The 7 Habits of Highly Effictive People”, by Stephen R. Covey.  In this book, Covey discusses ‘The Law of the Farm’.  Before discussing this law, I would like to state what I believe learning is not.  Learning is not cramming three to four weeks of material the night before an exam.  A student may pass the exam, but as we all know, the topics are lost at the end of the exam, and need to be learned for the final (cramming again.)  Learning is not attending a lecture, then going straight to the exercises to work on exercises, just to find out the student cannot complete the exercise or exercises because they have not taken the time to read the textbook, review notes, ask questions, etc.  Learning does not take place in a short amount of time, but is cultivated over time, which may be short.  Learning is a proactive activity on the student’s part to acquire the knowledge of the material, and, as stated in the definition above, applied.

Back to the ‘The Law of The Farm’, in short, the law of the farm states, that there comes a time when the farmer must plow the fields, fertilize the fields, sow the fields, water and tend the fields, then reap the harvest, after an allotted amount of time.  I too see learning just like the law of the farm.  Acquiring mathematical knowledge takes time and students must take the allotted time to acquire the material.

I believe that student success is accomplished by planning, preparation for class, asking questions when they don’t understand information, an exercise, an example, and seek additional help outside class.  I believe that the most important part for student’s success is preparation and time management.  Learning and acquiring the material takes time and is not something that arrives immediately, for everyone, The Law of the Farm.   Waiting until the last minute and cramming is not in the student’s best interest.  This would be like the farmer waiting until August to start plowing, planting, watering, and expecting the harvest to be ready by the middle of September.  This is not going to happen.

SUMMARY

In conclusion, it is my belief that teaching and learning are integrated together.  When both I and my students are proactive and working together in sync, the success of my students and the success of my teaching are synergized and this provides a win-win situation.   I am always looking out for the success of my students and I will provide any means necessary for their success, as their success is synergized with  my success.

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