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The Classroom as a Microcosm of the External Community

January 3, 2012

An important part of  any teaching application or teaching dossier is the statement of Teaching Philosophy. Graduate students who first put together their dossier have the challenge of articulating what, to that point, has likely been implicit and underdeveloped: their teaching philosophy.

What is it that you are trying to accomplish with teaching? Why do you want to be a professor? What are the assumptions, understandings and questions that guide you when you enter the classroom? Most graduate students, if asked, have an idea of what teaching styles they enjoy – after all, they’ve been in classes and watched professors and teachers for a large portion of their life! But articulating what is important to you is a different animal. It’s much more challenging to put in words exactly what it is that you want to carry on, what your personal philosophy is.

Any honest faculty member will tell you that their teaching philosophy has morphed and changed with their experiences, what they held dear upon entry into their first classroom has evolved to the point where it’s barely recognizable. But you have to start somewhere. Let me give you a starting point.

The classroom is a microcosm of the external community. Your teaching will set guidelines and expectations for the relationships and interactions within your little community but, beyond this, they also model how you conceive of other human relationships. If you believe humans were meant to be collaborative, how can you model this in your classroom? If you are the dictator of your classroom, what does this model to your students in regards to relationships with power figures and learning? If you treat your students with respect, you model the respect you hope to receive.

This might seem basic but it gives an opening for thinking about your teaching philosophy. What relationships do you hope to model for your students? With peers? With professors? With knowledge and learning? Why are these relationships important? If you don’t believe lecturing is the most effective way to learn, why? And how does this relate to the relationships you want to create?

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