Teaching is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Effective teaching requires openness: to new strategies and ideas, to evaluation and criticism, and most importantly, to the needs of individual students.
I strive to be open in a number of ways. I regularly experiment with new teaching techniques. According to pedagogical research, the best learning outcomes are achieved by using dynamic presentation methods, providing modern and relatable touchstones for difficult material, engaging with the students personally, and encouraging them to engage with and teach each other. Showing or telling is not enough. My job is to give students tools to engage.
I regularly self-evaluate and seek the evaluations of others. I often ask my students to provide me with anonymous feedback. This gives me the chance to determine what is working for a particular group, and to alter my methods if necessary. I strive to maintain a balance between structure and flexibility; students should know what the planned outcomes are, but feel comfortable contributing to their own learning process.
The best classroom is an inclusive classroom. I work to ensure that students from marginalized groups are heard and their experiences respected, by laying out clear classroom guidelines for discussion, and intervening when necessary. Power dynamics in the classroom will not balance themselves; my own experiences have helped me understand that.
I design assignments and test in a variety of styles that enables students to incorporate their own interests and passions. For example, I assign a “contemporary application” paper, in which students relate class material to features of the broader world (such as news, pop culture, or their own experience). This encourages them both to share their own perspectives and to explore the material in a new way.
Finally, I frequently discuss teaching methods and share ideas with other instructors, both within and outside of my discipline. Teaching academic philosophy has some unique challenges, so my fellow philosophy instructors are an excellent resource; however, teachers from other disciplines often have fresh and valuable viewpoints. The value of cooperation in teaching and learning can’t be overstated.
In short, my aim in teaching is to remain open to new situations, in order to tailor my approach to the needs of each particular group of students. I accomplish this by using a variety of evidence-based pedagogical methods, gathering and responding to feedback, encouraging students to incorporate their own perspectives and interests, and forging personal connections with students and fellow instructors.