Teaching Philosophy

Frank W. Elwell

I have borrowed my teaching philosophy from C. Wright Mills, a sociologist whom I greatly admire.  As a graduate student, I was exposed to Mills' The Sociological Imagination in which he makes the following statement: 

In a classroom the teacher ought to be trying to show others how one man thinks--and at the same time reveal what a fine feeling he gets when he does it well.  The teacher ought then, it seems to me, to make very explicit the assumptions, the facts, the methods, the judgments.  He ought not to hold back anything, but ought to take it very slowly and at all times repeatedly; make clear the full range of moral alternatives before he gives his own choice (p. 79). 

I attempt to follow this philosophy in all of my courses.  

In the last few years I have become an enthusiastic user of the new teaching technologies.  I have long used presentation programs to organize my lectures (as well as helping students organize their notes).  Currently, I am moving away from presentations in the classroom.  I have increasingly been using the web as an avenue of disseminating what used to be lecture material. This has freed up class time for more data demonstrations, computer lab simulations, and student discussion and presentation.  

I am learning.  Having watched many colleagues in the classroom I am aware that there are many different styles, many different teaching techniques.  In reflecting on my own days as an undergraduate I remember the wide diversity.  I am fully supportive of creative teaching efforts on the part of faculty.  Our merit systems must recognize and encourage teaching excellence of all kinds.  We also need more on-campus forum in which teaching materials can be shared.

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