Statement of Teaching Philosopy

Penn State's mission is to "make lives better," and I believe that Penn State students should aspire to leadership in their chosen professions. In designing classroom strategies to help students meet that goal, and thereby to improve their lives, I am guided by a 2008 report from Peter D. Hart Research Associates, prepared for the Association of American Colleges and Universities.  A survey of hiring managers and CEOs found new hires generally well prepared for entry level positions but significantly less well prepared for promotion to leadership positions, specifically because recent graduates lack a specific set of skills:
  • global knowledge
  • self-direction
  • writing
  • critical thinking
  • adaptability
  • self-knowledge
Most of my courses address most of these skills, and in so doing they prepare students for the rest of their Penn State education, for leadership in their chosen careers, and for twenty-first century citizenship.

I have for many years pursued a constructivist approach to teaching, a student-centered approach that allows students to select their own topics of inquiry, to work in teams for peer review and other tasks, and to collaborate on group assignments where appropriate. In addition to building basic skills in critical thinking through traditional modes of argument such as definition, narrative, evaluation, analysis, and proposal, my courses teach research skills from basic note taking to more complex subjects like navigating the Penn State Libraries electronic resources. They also cover writing from basic skills in grammar and punctuation to the finer points of organization and style.

My courses in composition and literature prepare students for citizenship in a multicultural nation that is part of an increasingly interconnected world. I do this by engaging students as individuals in context, asking them to understand their experiences and articulate their values in comparison and contrast with those of the culture(s) around them. My teaching also recognizes the specific needs of millennial generation learners, the "digital natives" whose lives are increasingly interpenetrated by technology. I have introduced digital media--including websites, blogs, podcast audio, and digital film--as alternatives alongside the traditional essay in composition classes, recognizing that much of the workplace writing that graduates engage in will take place on the web and/or through such media. I have also introduced web-based electronic portfolios as a means of personal skills assessment in composition, so that students can build on that basis throughout their tenure at Penn State.

Whether you are learning the proper use of semicolons, to work together to produce a film, or to understand a culture different from your own by discussing a Faulkner novel, you will gain skills that contribute directly to your future--in other Penn State classrooms, in professional meeting rooms, in your private and public life.

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