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My philosophy of teaching . . .

Teaching carries human knowledge forward in a profoundly personal way. It imparts confidence to be at home in the world and at ease with all kinds of persons, to be secure in using the skills of research and analysis and reflection to assist in problem-solving.  Whatever pedagogies and technologies are involved, the deep learning I seek for students means one to one interaction, being fully present to the other human person.

College-level teaching and the institutional environment of formal learning has changed enormously in recent decades.  I select and adapt new ideas, testing what works for students and what feels authentic to me. This requires more time for class preparation than I imagined when I began teaching.  For students, learning sometimes means taking time to change and experiment, resisting the lure of neatly packaged information which can be dropped into notes or laptops. 

In the classroom or online (Blackboard), I strive for a supportive atmosphere that conveys challenge rather than intimidation, inquiry rather than passivity, and caring rather than impersonality. Why are such dimensions so important today? I think that in an era when enormous amounts of information can be found electronically or elsewhere than in the classroom, the human process of learning becomes the critical difference. I can influence how students will in turn teach---whether in secondary education, in graduate school, as professionals or community leaders.  How I, as a scholar, teach what I know and how I convey what I am learning lies at the heart of my teaching and learning endeavor.

In addition to classroom assessment techniques during the semester, toward the end I set aside time to sit with students and talk about the course we are finishing. What might be improved for the next group of students?  Students are alerted beforehand; they can talk in small groups before we begin. These conversations have inspired the development of new courses and enabled me to incorporate many student suggestions in older courses. This reflective time concludes the semester with a call to students to be more colleagues than consumers. In the brief calm before the onset of finals, our conversations often touch on other issues central to education and life: why we learn, how learning changes us, what we can do with our knowledge. 

My office door, email and cell phone are open to students. Traditional and non-traditional aged students, women, students of color and a rich tapestry of ethnicities---so many different kinds of students and all at some point need academic advising. Today academic advising may disclose issues requiring professional counseling. Many students live in the turmoil of divorce, varieties of abuse, or learning disorders.  Financial issues are acute to overwhelming. Students struggle with the demands of parents, family, and society to be independent and successful. I keep current on where and how to refer students for more help---within my institution and in the community.

Whatever the challenges, every semester is a fresh beginning for us.  I always look forward to a new year, to the students I am privileged to teach, and to the learning that we will experience together.



Copyright 2007 © Theodosia Robertson

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