Teaching Philosophy

My central academic purpose is to help others make better decisions, specifically in designing, building, maintaining, and using web technology. This purpose drives my research agenda and my teaching philosophy. My initial interest in teaching developed during a temporary job tutoring and substitute teaching shortly after my undergraduate degree. It was during this time that I fell in love with helping others to grasp the concepts and skills necessary for living. Over time, I have gained experience teaching in a variety of settings and using a variety of methods. This includes one-on-one tutoring in math and sciences, teaching chemistry to high school students, supporting Montessori styled instruction of philosophy and life planning, and lecturing at the university level. My joy in teaching, along with the birth of my children, has led me to explore various educational philosophies.

The basis for my educational philosophy evolves from my understanding of Marie Montessori’s The Montessori Method, David Ausubel’s Meaningful learning, and Dr. Jamin Carson’s work in philosophy of education. Simply stated, this philosophy blends an Objectivist theory of knowledge with a very hands on methodology to engage students through meaningful learning. The Objectivist theory of knowledge states that more complex knowledge can only be understood after simpler concepts are learned.  While this statement seems rather intuitive, many times I have been witness to classroom environments that attempt to bypass this hierarchical nature by presenting students with complex theories based on abstract principles the likes of which students have extreme difficulty in grasping.   Students, lost in the abstract, memorize slogans and definitions without really understanding the material.  To compensate for this, I structure my classroom lectures starting with simple concepts, giving concrete examples, explaining how they developed, exploring logical implications, and spiraling around to develop richer deeper understanding of the concepts.

For example, the curriculum I use for Introduction to Information Systems starts historically with simple technologies and principles used in storing and spreading information.  One of my first lectures begins with the advent of writing.  We discuss what environmental factors lead to the need for writing, why only certain cultures develop it, and why at that time in history.  We further discuss how the world would be different without writing and if there might be alternative technologies that could do a similar function.  By starting with the older technologies, today’s information systems are put into a context that is much easier for students to appreciate.  Similarly, it is virtually impossible for students to master object-oriented programming until they fully understand variables, statements, decision controls, and functions.  Students should master basic procedural programming before they study object-oriented programming.

As for my method of instruction, I structure classes so that students can master the class material using a combination of lecture, discussion, activities, demonstrations, and homework.  Following what I have learned, I have been working on reducing the amount of lecture time by including more activities, discussions, and technologies that facilitate critical thinking, problem solving, and inductive reasoning.  Lecture format is necessary for some material, but various activities and discussions can help drive home points at critical junctures and with more efficiency than lecture alone.  Use of slides, simulations, videos, writing assignments, and demonstrations when used appropriately help students to learn and apply concepts that may be difficult to do with lecture alone.  As my educational philosophy continues to evolve, I strive to make the presentation of material ever more effective, memorable, and meaningful for my students.