Philosophical Perspectives and Being Green Inspire Online Spring 2016 Teaching Effectiveness Institute

appleThe first Faculty Development program of the New Year focused on the fundamental philosophical principles of how and why we teach. On Thursday, January 7, 2016, nearly 70 individuals participated in both the morning and afternoon online sessions, saving over 180 gallons of gasoline if everyone would have traveled by car to campus that day. This equates to almost 3500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions saved from entering the atmosphere by everyone who participated staying home! Other benefits of an online Institute are not commuting to campus, learning from the comfort of their home or offices, and coming and going as desired.

From a theoretical point of view, the morning session, Why We Teach: Our Impact as Educators, included four unique philosophical perspectives from NIU faculty members.

  • Kerry Burch from the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations presented the opening session On Formulating a Teaching Philosophy: Crucial Etymologies to Consider. Kerry’s session focused on the etymological significances related to teaching philosophies that faculty can consider for their own teaching philosophies.
  • Nick Pohlman from the Department of Mechanical Engineering presented Enabling Students to Illuminate the Path of Learning and shared valuable tips for working with students of different skill levels and insightful strategies for engaging all students in the educational process.
  • Ursula Sullivan from the Department of Marketing presented Preparing and Coaching Professional and identified ways to incorporate active learning, real world experiences, and hands on activities that can be used in a range of classroom situations.
  • Laura Vazquez from the Department of Communication presented Philosophies of Teaching: Fostering Collaboration and Creativity and included examples of strategies for connecting with students who bring a wide variety of perspectives to the 21st century higher education classroom.

Following the faculty presentations, Institute participants engaged in an interactive guided reflection activity during which they addressed a set of questions and prompts that encouraged them to reflect on the question, “Why do I teach?” Using Blackboard’s Collaborate Ultra, participants were able to write, draw, and reflect with one another about questions such as:

  • I believe students learn best by…
  • I want my students to learn…
  • My students benefit from taking my course or working with me because…

Participants ended the morning with virtual homework for which they were asked to draft a simple teaching philosophy statement based on their reflections of the morning session. This statement could then be included in their course syllabi that can convey to students the hows and whys of their teaching practices.

You can watch a recording of the morning session below.

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The afternoon session, How We Teach: Connecting Philosophy with Practice, highlighted the four philosophical perspectives of Idealism, Realism, Pragmatism, and Existentialism. During this session, Faculty Development staff members provided ways faculty can align their teaching practices with each of the philosophical perspectives. Here are just a few of the teaching takeaways from the afternoon session that faculty can implement in their own teaching:

  1. Assigning persuasive essays, articles, and other readings that encourage students to evaluate various instructional materials (Idealism)
  2. Having students practice and refine newly learned information until they master the intended skill (Realism)
  3. Breaking students into groups to brainstorm issues and solutions for a current issue in your field and then bringing the class together to discuss the problem (Pragmatism)
  4. Incorporating cooperative learning activities in the classroom in which students become members of a learning community (Existentialism)

Your teaching philosophy can inform your teaching practice and have a profound impact on your students’ development and progress throughout their lives. In difficult times such as we face in higher education today, reflecting on your teaching philosophy can help remind you of why you teach and how your role as a teacher is so important.

You can watch a recording of the afternoon session below.

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Finally, here are a few resources on how to write a personal teaching philosophy statement and ways to implement different philosophical approaches in your teaching:

Six Questions That Will Bring Your Teaching Philosophy into Focus

Writing a Teaching Philosophy Statement

Philosophical Perspectives in Education



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