Teaching Philosophy  Edward L. Kinman, Ph.D. 

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Teaching
  • Teaching Philosophy

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    How I Believe Students Learn:
    Students learn when they are engaged with a subject. Teaching, therefore, is the act of getting students involved with course material. The key is interaction. When a student becomes active with the subject, learning occurs. A learning moment is when the student processes information so that he/she comprehends, retains, integrates, and is able to make applications. Higher order thinking about a subject is evidence that learning has occurred.

    Learning moments vary among students, depending on their personal motivation and learning, thinking, and personality styles. A class lecture may cause highly motivated people to become engrossed with a subject. Teacher-centered lectures, however, do not require students to become involved with the subject during class. This teaching approach generally engages the student by giving tests. The examination preparation forces the student to become involved with course content. If there are only two or three tests, the number of learning moments is minimal. Learning moments can be increased by promoting learner- centered environments that involve discussions, case studies, or cooperative learning.

    Higher order thinking is the ability to think holistically and creatively about a subject. It involves analytic and problem-solving skills in which students develop the ability to synthesize and integrate information and ideas. To do this, students must first understand a subject’s basic components or primitives. These are the building blocks or vocabulary that must be mastered. Second, they need to learn a subject’s grammar or processes to be able to work with the primitives. This involves understanding how the basics fit together to produce useful applications of a subject. High-order thinking requires the mastery of both elements before a student is able to apply learned principles and generalizations to new problems and situations.

    Role of the Learner in the Educational Process:
    The motivation for taking a course varies among students. A student may or may not want to be in my class. All, however, have a common goal in obtaining a degree. To understand the role of the student, I like to compare the educational process to the parts of a sentence. The student is the subject, while a course is the object. Learning, therefore, is the expressed action of the subject (student) engaging the direct object (course content). Because the learner, as subject, is the actor in the educational process, the student must assume responsibilities.

    First, students must realize that they will have to be active in the learning process. Class assignments, for example, are vehicles the instructor has provided for the learner to become engaged in course material. If students choose to remove themselves from the process by not completing assignments or attending class, they are not becoming active with subject matter.

    Second, taking a collegiate class is akin to a legal contract. There are student expectations that the institution will provide a competent instructor in an environment conducive to learning. In return, a college or university has expectations of students. Tuition is expected as a form of payment. In addition, there is the expectation that students will in good faith be active in the learning process.

    Role of the Teacher in the Educational Process:
    My role as a teacher first involves the role of expert. To be able to teach, I must possess a mastery of course material. Being an expert means more than being a gatekeeper of information, it also involves a way of thinking. Knowing how to think about a body of knowledge may be as important as the content itself.

    Second, it involves a degree of formal authority. A teacher must be recognized by students as having authority in the sense that he/she can speak knowledgeably to a topic. Authority should be used judiciously, not for the ego of the teacher. Thoughtful feedback to the student should show respect and encourage him/her to become more active in the subject matter. Critical teacher evaluation should show students their strengths in addition to their weaknesses.

    Third, my role as a teacher means that I am a role model. I should embody the method employed to investigate a topic. This means that I should share how I would approach a topic, taking care to note when my actions are based on standard conventions as opposed to personal opinion. Students should be able to “see my mind” at work when addressing an issue. It is not mandatory that students always follow my methods, but they should understand the process and develop their own critical thought capacity.

    Fourth, a teacher should be a facilitator. Students have varying interests and abilities. In addition, students in my classes are socially diverse and represent numerous disciplines. Given this context, my role is to identify common paths so students develop new ways of thinking towards their area of interest. Ideally, I try to create an environment in which students begin to work together to identify solutions for the problems they are addressing in their area of study.

    Expectations for Students Who Take My Courses:
    I expect a good faith effort by students to fulfill class assignments. As an adult, it is a student’s responsibility to bring to my attention matters that are affecting their coursework in my class.

    In evaluating students, I look for evidence of critical thinking. Most of my assignments have components that allow creative expression. Correct technical answers do not necessarily result in full credit if a student cannot explain the process and/or reasons for an answer. I avoid giving “cookbook assignments” in which every step involved in solving a problem is outlined to the student. Rather, I purposely incorporate a degree of vagueness so students will have to think through issues before completing an assignment. In addition, students have considerable latitude in the subjects they address in their assignments. While this places an extra burden on me in grading their work, it allows students a chance to apply geographic principles to their topic or field of study. My examinations contain a variety of formats, with the realization that students have varying learning styles.

    By expecting and encouraging high quality work from students, providing opportunities for active engagement in the learning process, and promoting critical and careful thinking, I hope to help my students develop to their fullest potential and build confidence in their own abilities. In the process, I expect to continue learning and growing as an educator and to continue to enjoy the opportunity to work with students and to be part of their educational experience.

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