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 2019).

Statement of Teaching Philosophy

As a teaching professor of communication, my main objectives are to spotlight relationships between media, language, history, culture, politics and economics, to draw out students’ insights and ideas, and to help them forge links between our subject, their own experiences and their aspirations. How I do this varies from course to course. Yet some constants remain, based on principles I have formed through my years of teaching.

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

The appeal of this intellectual journey may be obvious enough to some, yet less apparent to others. Where such challenges crop up (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 academia,  in industry and everyday life.

Beyond the material itself, each course offers chances for us to work together 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, may find themselves delivering a conference-style presentation, producing a podcast or blending traditional writing and research tasks with online research and creative work. For example, students in a course focused on sporting mega-events have taken part in mock Olympic host city bidding competitions and used social media to monitor the news as it occurred, learning about the issues underlying their subject in a lively, active way.

I believe that our work is most valuable when students are pushed to develop creative and practical resources in ways that they are unaccustomed to, but can learn from. My philosophy of teaching emphasizes that I adapt to students and create opportunities for them to discover their own best ways of learning and working. My role is to advise, suggest and support – while students know it is up to them to grow and succeed. When I hear my students describe their experience as “challenging,” “surprising” or even “scary at first,” but ultimately empowering, I believe something valuable is being accomplished.