Teaching is a fine balance between providing students with expert information and examples about the topic area and helping them to generate a genuine interest about the topic area. As an organizational communication scholar and teacher, I am particularly interested in how humans make connections in everyday life to accomplish their individual and collective goals. As a teacher, this emphasis is vitally important to me. I show students that connections can be made beyond the confines of the course material to a much broader context. By teaching ideas and not ideology, I do my best to provide students with a safe and effective learning environment that helps them make connections from the material in class to their futures as productive members of society. It is my belief that learning does not take place through simple memorization and repetition of material. Rather, learning occurs through the application of a complex system of immediately useful examples and material not found in any textbook. My experiences in academic settings and the private sector inform my teaching practice to provide my students with a unique outlook on both the content material and the process of learning.
When designing any new class, the first aspect I consider is what goals and objectives I will be able to accomplish in my course for the greatest benefit to each of my students. Designing course objectives is no easy task. By utilizing Bloom’s taxonomy of learning domains, I focus on what students should know, feel, and do by the conclusion of the course. I base the entire class structure and content on these learning outcomes, but make sure that they are not exclusive only to the course material. Using these learning objectives, I encourage students critically to think about the material in a much larger context that will assist them in their futures. All of this can occur by attending to both pedagogical and andragogical learning theories.
I believe that teachers are charged with a vital role in society. That role is to engage all students in critical thinking skills. It is my firm belief that engaged and critically thinking students will have a far greater chance to succeed in their futures over students who simply learn and recall course material. By teaching ideas, I engage my students through methods that assist them in developing their critical thinking skills. I believe that this level of engagement can occur in any course, regardless of the content material—from a basic survey of communication class to an advanced graduate-level research methods course. There are no bad ideas in my class, but I do assist my students in developing properly warranted arguments that demonstrate they are utilizing higher-order thinking, beyond a simple denotative description of any construct. Without teaching critical thinking skills in the classroom, our society would begin to decline rather quickly. Considering that critical thinking is seldom taught in the K-12 system and even more seldom reinforced in the media, this role may be the most important one placed upon our institutions of higher learning. Through an open and respectful Socratic dialogue of the material in the class, my hope is that when students leave my class they have a good grasp of the material, have made new connections that they did not know existed prior to the class, and will critically think about popular arguments in society. I feel that teaching is never a thankless job, if teachers know they have done their best to groom well-educated students. As the Latin etymology for educate is “to lead outward,” I do all I can in both the classroom and in my one-on-one mentoring to ensure that my students have the knowledge and the confidence to move these dialogues from the classroom into their public, personal, and professional lives.