Teaching Philosophy

My statement of teaching philosophy is always a work in progress.  Isn’t every philosophy? Isn’t everything, really?

Here’s the latest version (as of February 2016).

Statement of Teaching Philosophy

As a teaching professor, my main objective is to examine relationships between media, history, popular culture, politics and economics, to draw out students’ insights and ideas, and to help them make links to their own experiences and career goals. How I do this varies from course to course, but some constants remain, based on principles I have formed through my years of teaching.

First, that while most of my students are studying subjects like communication theory and media research methods for the first time, they have certainly thought a lot about communicating. They have lived in a world of talking, listening, watching, making and sharing. “How can I help them to think more rigorously, deeply about it?” becomes my question.

The appeal of this intellectual journey may be obvious enough to me and to some students. Where this approach proves more challenging (e.g. in teaching academic research methods to practice-oriented students in a largely practice-oriented department) I use examples from social media, music, television, art, film, and students’ own lived experiences to emphasize the place of research and critical thinking outside the academic setting, in industry and in everyday life.

Beyond the material itself, each course offers chances to work on vital skills – writing, working in groups, and presenting one’s ideas in public. Students in my classes, having studied a theory or researched some phenomenon of interest to them, will find themselves delivering a conference-style presentation or taking part in a poster session. Students in my course focused on sporting mega-events have taken part in mock Olympic host city bidding competitions or used social media to monitor events as they occur, learning about the issues underlying the subject in a lively, active way.

A crucial element, in my view, is the student taking responsibility for her own education. I believe that large project-based classes like senior capstone are most valuable when they push students to develop creative and practical resources in ways that they are unaccustomed to. College courses often teach students to work to many assigned deadlines (“give me 10 pages by Week 5”) – a habit that may not serve them beyond the classroom. My approach in such classes is to offer students few such milestones other than a due date. Instead, they must manage their own project schedule, discovering for themselves their own best ways of learning and working.  My role is to advise, suggest and support – but students know it is up to them whether they thrive or struggle. When I hear my students describe this experience as “scary,” “difficult,” and “disorienting, at first,” but ultimately empowering, I believe something valuable is being accomplished.