My Teaching Philosophy (part 327b)

I’m putting some finishing touches on my syllabi here the night before classes start, and I thought I would share with my blog readers a one-page statement of my teaching philosophy that I put on each of my syllabi. Anyone do anything similar? Please share in the comments.

A note about my teaching philosophy

 I love teaching Psychology. Love it. I feel lucky to get up every day to guide students through the most fascinating subject the world has ever known: the mysteries of our own minds.

But I recognize that not all of my students feel as lucky to be in my class, or in college at all. It is not always enjoyable, and sometimes students may feel that it is not worth the large cost that many pay. I am aware of the costs, both of your time and of your (and your parents’) money. I keep this in mind, and I work hard so that the class will be worth it for each of you. What does “worth it” mean in this case? I have several goals in every class I teach.

First, I do want the students in the class to enjoy it in the moment. Learning can be fun. I don’t think learning should be drudgery. I make many efforts to bring the content to life, through videos, activities, my feeble attempts at humor, the occasional meme I found on the internet that I think relates to the topic at hand, or a magic trick or two.

Second, while I value fun, enjoyment is not the only thing I value in teaching. A magic show for a semester would be fun, but you wouldn’t really learn anything, and it would be a waste of your time and money. Therefore my second goal is for the learning that you gain in the class to be useful. This might include knowledge useful for psychology majors, but also tips and advice for being a more successful college student, or job seeker, or small business owner.

Third, this “useful” view of learning as useful is also a too-limited view of the potential of education. I want my students to leave as educated citizens, even if this does not translate to any single job. This third goal is due to an allegiance to my field of psychology and my profession as a teacher-scientist. Scientific research creates new knowledge; science discovers and creates thoughts that no one ever had before. This often leads to making people’s lives better. I want students to leave my classes respecting the importance of scientific psychology, carrying that respect into their future lives as citizens in our society.

I try to make each course I design, each class I teach, each activity I assign, fulfill each of these goals. If you feel some aspect of this course falls short, please let me know.

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