TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

John R. Meyer

Department of Entomology
NC State University




A teacher is a person who creates an environment that is conducive to learning a place where students can immerse themselves in a subject or discipline as they assimilate a body of requisite information, concepts, and/or skills.  Learning is not a passive process, it requires motivation, effort, and persistence.  Good students enter the learning environment with a commitment to scholarship, a willingness to work, and a sense of personal responsibility toward achieving their educational goals.  Good teachers provide an environment that is challenging yet supportive.  They set goals and deadlines.  They furnish resources, critique performance, and provide enough stimulation to minimize distractions and sustain motivation.  Despite the best intentions and methods, the most effective teacher in the world cannot teach someone who is unwilling to learn.  The idea that students must be active participants in the learning process is diametrically opposed to the currently fashionable view that the student is a 'customer' and the school is merely a vendor of knowledge and degrees.

In my role as a teacher, I have three primary functions:  tour guide, facilitator, and gate keeper.  These are not mutually exclusive activities, although students often regard them as such.  Each lecture, laboratory, or homework assignment contains elements of all three functions.

As a tour guide, I lead my students on an intellectual journey through their course of study.  My role is to point out the scenic attractions, highlighting particular features of the subject matter, and focusing attention on major points, important terms or concepts, relevant issues, and significant relationships.  It is my responsibility to decide where the path leads, what topics are important, which concepts are central, and how much emphasis is placed on each subject area.  It is also my duty to decide how steep the path should be, and whether to lead my students over obstacles or around them.

As a facilitator, my job is to provide an organizational framework and a set of tools that students can use to assimilate the knowledge they seek.  These tools must be sufficiently diverse to accommodate the varying needs of different personalities and learning styles.  In my courses, I provide lecture outlines, handouts, worksheets, group activities, and homework assignments that supplement lectures and labs.  On the Internet, my students can find tutorials, vocabulary lists, self tests, and copies of old exams and quizzes.  The variety of these resources is designed to appeal to as many students as possible.

As a gate keeper, I am responsible for setting standards of achievement and for evaluating the progress of my students against those standards.  I do not reward laziness or sloppy thinking.  I insist upon excellence.  I do not grade on a curve, but try to apply an absolute scale.  The bar is set at a fixed height, not to be lowered.  In the course of their education, I expect students to develop an ability to think critically and analytically, to know what questions to ask before making a decision, and to know where to look for answers to their questions.




A SUCCESSFUL TEACHER NEEDS

The education of a college president,
The executive ability of a financier,
The humility of a deacon,
The adaptability of a chameleon,
The hope of an optimist,
The courage of a hero,
The wisdom of a sage,
The gentleness of a dove,
The patience of Job,
The grace of God, and
The persistence of the devil.

-Coni 84




Last Updated:   19 November 2009
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John R. Meyer
Department of Entomology
NC State University