How does one begin to write about her
or his teaching philosophy? I find it difficult to articulate my teaching philosophy per se ; however,
there is a consistency in themes or perspectives in each of the courses I teach. Let
me briefly outline these themes for you here.
Prime learning environment.
Part of my job as an instructor is to continually seek new exercises and assignments that lead students in critical thinking
and meta-cognitive analyses on the class subject. In order for this to occur, students need to be situated within a prime
learning environment. What are the features of a prime learning environment?
feedback and positive reinforcement
control of the learning environment
I design all of these features into my classes.
Safe Space in the Classroom.
There are things from which I think every classroom, on-site or online, ought to constitute safe space. Here
is my list: (1) safety from sexual assault, abuse, threat or harassment; (2) safety from verbal assault,abuse, threat
or harassment; (3) safety from sexism, gender-ism and homophobia; (4) safety from class - economic bias and chauvinism ;
(5) safety from political - economic persecution; (6) safety from retaliation or revenge for expressing one's beliefs,
feelings and ideas; (7) safety from the instructor's abuse of power; (8) safety from bias and insensitivity
to individuals with special needs; and (9) safety from physical assault, abuse or harassment. I shall do
my utmost to assure these safety standards are met and maintained in the class. If at any time a student or students
feel "unsafe," please let me know.
At the same time, it is important to point out that, there is a major difference between intellectual challenge with respect to ideas and
personal attacks against the holders of ideas.
Readings, Web sites, and class discussions are based on whatever disciplines, knowledge and experiences will
best illuminate the subject we are studying, which is usually critical thinking and writing. My goal is to
construct a smorgasbord of ideas an intellectual buffet table from which students can select whatever best helps them
to understand the issues and subject material. So students travel through sociology, psychology, literature, ecology,
cultural geography, cultural history, anthropology, philosophy, music, dance, art history, graphic arts, film studies, economics,
marketing, Internet culture and popular culture such as advertising. I have also used bull fighting and tango as avenues
for critical thinking and exploration.
Explorations in Interdisciplinary Learning
A favorite word of mine is why. In the
classroom, I encourage and nurture students to question, search for cause-effect and relationships, and evaluate
inferential reasoning. Students learn to present their ideas (in oral and written form) and provide the rationale or
evidence that underlies their propositions. Students also use creative, imaginative
discovery as well as the scientific method, qualitative and quantitative. The social and individual impact of thinking, ideas,
and decisions is also emphasized.
Critical Thinking in the Classroom
The Foundation for Critical Thinking
Textual analysis for political and social encoding.
I suppose my training as an intellectual / cultural historian comes into play here, since I stress the importance of
culture, class, gender, and ethnicity in textual analysis, both explicitly and subtextually. This
approach helps position students for the multi-cultural, global thinking required in the twenty-first century. Perhaps
more importantly, this cultural approach prepares students for the complexity in their social, cultural and political
environments in twenty-first century America.
Semiotics for Beginners
The Politcal Unconscious
What Color is the Net
Lifelong learning is modeled.
Every class I teach is an opportunity to model lifelong learning, since I
am learning all the time in a variety of areas, academic and non-academic. Furthermore, I am always seeking
new conceptual and practical ideas to apply to class material. For this reason, there is always experimentation, improvisation, creativity,
and passion in the courses I teach, and my courses change and evolve every time I teach or facilitate them. This
approach is risky, of course, because I give up the polish and security of tested material and instead
venture into uncharted intellectual waters with students. The value of this endeavor is enormous: Venturing
into the unknown, and having the intellectual confidence to tackle the unknown, is one life skill a rigorous liberal
arts education can provide. Indeed, a liberal arts education is not so much having the right answers but assuming an intellectual, critical posture in your life that will aid you, even provide succor, in all lifes endeavors.
Life Long Learning, I
Long Learning, II
Computer-Internet literacy is
developed. Computer / information literacy is defined as a new liberal
art that extends from knowing how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the nature of information
itself, its technical infrastructure, and its social, cultural and even philosophical context and impact - Shapiro, Jeremy
J. and Shelley K. Hughes. Educom Review. 3.2. Mar./Apr. 1996.
Class work in D2L and
on the Internet is used to develop skills in this new liberal art.
Service learning for enrichment.
By service learning, I mean experiential
learning that employs service or real life problem applications in some form to government, community, private sector and
non-profit agencies. Service learning enhances the traditional classroom
by actively engaging students in their own educations through experiential learning in course-relevant contexts. Furthermore,
service learning fosters lifelong connections between students, their communities, and the larger human community the world
outside the classroom.
Here is a list of benefits
service learning provides:
retention of course material, as well as interest in course material;
** increases the relevancy of education
to real world applications;
personalized education for students;
**empowers students as learners and democratic
invites students to become active, engaged members of their own communities;
**teaches job skills and prepares students for careers after college;
networking opportunities, along with substantive filler for resumes.
Service Learning, II
Image Credits and Note:
The Greek letter for "L" is a symbol of liberation that was used by Spartan soldiers and Roman
warriors. The Activist Alliance of New York adopted the orange lambda on a blue field in 1970 as a symbol of gay liberation.
In 1974, the International Gay Rights Congress adopted the lambda as the international symbol for gay and lesbian rights.
Today, the lambda is also a symbol of gay and lesbian pride.