Teaching Philosophy

My teaching life started as a guest speaker and developer of workshops at professional conferences typically around green building. I found the experience of creating a platform for dialogue and exploration extremely gratifying and have since taught numerous courses, primarily at the undergraduate level.

Regardless of the course that I’m teaching, my approach to teaching is pretty consistent. While my pedagogical methods are flexible, my contributions and expectations are uniform across the various courses I’ve lead. My methods can include lecturing, in class discussions, and more formal dialogue. I leverage well-produced media such as film and external lecture when appropriate, and often invite guest speakers that have interesting experiences that might compliment in-class learning. Whenever appropriate I share the course platform with participants to allow for peer-led experiments in experiential learning. I try to avoid written in-class examination in favor of exercises that allow for longer periods of reflection or activities that push collaboration between students.

In class facilitation exercise at McGill

I love teaching as much as I love learning, and while I hope this enthusiasm is contagious, I do expect a certain degree of intrinsic motivation on the part of class participants. I give a great deal of thought, preparation, and energy in my work as a teacher, and I expect a similar level of thought, preparation, and energy from my students. I rarely review assigned course material in great detail in class, expecting that students arrived prepared to investigate key aspects of a topic, in order to explore these complex topics from different perspectives together. I look for opportunities to bring class participants through practical experiences that will help make ideas and theories real to them. Class assignments are meant to open a direct dialogue with the student, material and teacher. I err on the side of more feedback rather than less, and this is naturally dependent on the quality of the material presented for feedback.

I don’t look to measure students based on what they think, but rather, how they think. I have disagreed fundamentally with some of the views of my best students. This requires students to not to have “an opinion” to share with the class, but rather ideas that are clearly supported by evidence and reason. Critical thinking, writing, and reasoning skills are far more important to me than hearing ideas that may resonate with my perceived world view.

I expect student to take the job of being a student seriously, and I prepare courses that I hope will be enjoyable experiences. I want students to look forward to the time we spend together, but I want part of that to be the challenge that a good learning experience can bring.

The expression “those who can, do; those that can’t, teach” suggests the speaker has never fully experienced a teacher that viewed teaching as a practice in itself. I have had a number of incredible teachers in my life, and can honestly say that my life was partly shaped by my experience of being the student of excellent teachers.  Anyone who has had a good teacher knows that teaching is doing; what they are doing is teaching.

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Category: Teaching