STATEMENT OF TEACHING PHILOSOPHY
Benjamin Walter H., PhD
My role as an educator is defined by three principle activities: to continuously make every effort to develop a broad array of teaching skills and alter them to meet the needs of my students, to evaluate my students objectively, honestly and fairly, and to challenge my students to master course material while, at the same time, helping them to develop communication skills and the ability to think critically.
My teaching philosophy has developed based, in part, on my experiences as an undergraduate biology student. I remember the instructors I liked at the undergraduate level and the aspects of the classes they taught that made my learning experiences positive. I also remember that certain types of lecturing styles made course material interesting, while others were not effective. In fact, I observed that, on occasion, alternatives to lectures, such as small-group discussions, hands-on laboratory sessions, and question-and-answer periods, worked well. Others, such as take-home exams were not effective. Some types of exams I took were able to assess how much I had actually learned; others simply seemed to test how fast I could write or how good I was at spotting trickery. Many assignments reinforced my understanding of course material or allowed me to explore parts of it in greater detail; others seemed of little value. From these experiences, I learned what teaching approaches make for a positive, beneficial classroom environment, and I incorporated them into the development of my own teaching style. For example, I routinely incorporate current scientific topics in my lectures. I might discuss the scientific and ethical dilemmas of stem cell research when I lecture about the blood cell development. I also compose exams using a variety of question formats, including essays, short answer, multiple choice, and the use of figures to give as many students as possible the chance to excel.
One interesting phenomenon that I observed recently is that the face of the student body on today's college campus is changing. What I mean is college students in science are increasingly female in number and members of underrepresented minority groups. Moreover, a large number of nontraditional students who hold full-time jobs and support families are pursuing college degrees, especially in the health sciences arena. Not all these students enter college with the same level of preparedness, and I am mindful that not all students learn the same way I do. In order to accommodate the ways in which some of my students learn I adapt my teaching style to change with the times. Accordingly, for students that might have difficulties attending predetermined class periods, I use Blackboard online education applications to post class notes, exam study guides and student grades. I find it to be an invaluable tool for posting online class discussion projects and for reaching the entire class if I must make an announcement that affects the class as a whole. To accommodate students whose schedules are filled with personal and professional obligations, I have held review sessions and scheduled office hours on weekends. I also make myself available through email sessions to keep the lines of communication open with students who are hesitant about speaking in person,
I believe a major part of my role as a teacher is to challenge my students and help them rise to the level of that challenge. In an anatomy and physiology course, for example, students are expected to master a large body of material. By stressing the importance of learning the language of science, i.e., the meanings of the Latin and Greek roots, prefixes and suffixes of anatomical terms, I show my students how to decipher function and location information from anatomical terms. Knowing that every time they see the prefix "ren" it refers to kidney, students achieve a better understand of the function and location of renal arteries, renal veins, adrenal glands, etc., and appreciate the interrelation of the body's organ systems. Students have told me this approach makes learning the material easier and much more meaningful.
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