Sunday, November 1, 2015

Philosophy of Teaching and Learning

Because of a bureaucratic snafu, I need to get my courses re-approved by the department that offers them; I am employed by the Dean's office of my college and I report to the college's Director of Online Courses, but my courses are actually offered through an academic department, and so they have been since 2002. There is a new department chair, however, and she does not know me, and so we have a video conference set up next week, and this weekend I am preparing some documentation for that meeting. Specifically I needed to prepare a one-page c.v., so I did that (you can see my brief c.v. here).

Yet that c.v. didn't actually seem to say anything important about what I do, which is to teach online courses full-time. So, even though it was not something requested, I decided to write a Philosophy of Teaching and Learning. And that was a very thought-provoking experience! I tried to write the first version thinking about the department chair and other administrators at my school who might be reviewing it, but the result was so stilted and artificial that it didn't seem like me at all, and it felt very defensiveness (gee, I wonder why, ha ha). Then I decided to write the version you see there now — a philosophy to share with my students — and that turned out great! That seems much more positive and useful. Faculty are required to have a c.v. and they are required to have syllabuses for their classes, but just think how useful it would be if we all had prepared and share a philosophy of teaching and learning: what an amazing collection of ideas and insights that would be!

So, I'm thinking that this statement could be something I fold into the growth-mindset assignment for the first week of class. Right now, I ask the students to do a totally free-form growth mindset post after learning something about growth mindset from a Carol Dweck video and some related reading. Now what I am thinking I might do is to have students watch the Carol Dweck video, then read how growth mindset is part of my own personal philosophy, and THEN ask them to respond, perhaps in the form of their own philosophy of learning, or a learning biography ("what I've learned about learning"), or perhaps with a specific response to Dweck and/or questions they would like to ask me.

Anyway, this is all falling into the category of life's lemons and lemonade. Since the bureaucratic snafu came out of nowhere, it really caught me by surprise and made me feel pretty anxious. But thanks to a good video meeting last week with the online course director, I felt more confident about preparing the c.v., and I feel even better having come up with something I can actually use in my classes next semester! Yes!!!


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