Teaching Philosophy


In the words of John Dewey, “Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself” (Dewey, 1966). Much as the unexamined life is not a fulfilling one, the unexamined education is similarly dissatisfying. My philosophy is driven not only by my education in Learning, Media, and Technology, but also by museum work and my decade in the classroom teaching between four and six classes per semester.

Experience, education, and self-examination have led me to adopt three principles of teaching. The first is proper planning: The instructor must first have a clear idea of the learning objectives involved in the course in order to convey them to the students (Nilson, 2010). The second is engaging students in the active learning process (Doyle, 2011). The third is properly designed assessment that acts not as a dreaded barrier to cross, but actively engages students (Nilson, 2011; Boyle and Rothstein, 2003). I will explain each of these elements below.

First, in planning a course, one must incorporate a clear progression of goals through Bloom’s taxonomy of learning. Students progress from knowledge of facts to analysis, synthesis, and, finally, being able to independently critically evaluate theories and overarching themes. Doing so not only broadens the course content, but also helps the material connect to prior knowledge and “stick” to what students are learning in other classes.

Following Confucius’ maxim “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand,” I aim to deliver my lectures not to a passive audience, but to involved, active learners. To this end, my museum work has taught me that the visual arts are an excellent way of engaging undergraduates. My museum work and fencing teaching have also guided me in incorporating hands-on learning experiences in the classroom. On the ground, I have had students construct astrolabes or learn to fence; in online courses, I provide a choice of creative activities such as recording music and creating infographics and animations. I also give students a choice of means of displaying their mastery of the material. The result is not only an intellectual, but an emotional and even physical understanding of the material. Thus, following the principles of Universal Design, my classes incorporate all possible learning styles.

I am a devotee of open-source learning platforms. This is partially due to my being sensitive to my students’ financial welfare (a significant proportion of them come from underprivileged socioeconomic backgrounds, and from having worked for a textbook company, I know that profit is far above pedagogy in their business model); partially because technology has to some degree obviated the need for a single convenient codex; and partially because, rather than merely having students read a recitation of the master narrative, I find that superior understanding comes from having them think about the subject for themselves by reading and evaluating sources. The necessary narrative component comes not from a single textbook, but from vetted online essays, but my desire is for students to become truly global citizens by being able to discern quality information for themselves.

A brief précis of the schools where I have taught will speak to my ability to reach a diverse student body: American International College, where I taught from 2010 to 2017, is roughly 25% Black or African-American, 15% Latino, and has a small number of Asian students. White students are actually in the minority, at only 40%. There were also, as the school’s name implies, a comparatively large number of both international students and foreign-born students. (Note that the total is not 100% because not all students reported their ethnicity.) Many of my students were the first in their family to go to college Anna Maria College, where I am currently adjuncting, is fairly diverse for a Catholic university, with about 11% African-American/Black and 8% Latino students. Again, many of my students there are first-generation college students.

In keeping with national trends, women were slightly in the majority in all of my schools; however, UMass-Mt. Ida, where I had a contract from 2017 to 2020, is a special case, as the Veterinary Technology students I taught were 95% women. The campus thus has the feel of a traditional women’s college.

No matter what the population I am working with, I find the key to success is encouraging and enabling my students to tell their own stories. Giving my students of color a forum in which to tell their personal stories of being followed by the police, turned down for a rental apartment, or simply encountering the daily microaggressions of a racially unjust society expands the class’s experience well beyond anything I could possibly share through a mere lecture or reading assignment.

What I would like my students to take from my classes is not merely an assemblage of facts, dates, and figures, but tools of inquiry and social critique. This, I think, is what true education consists of: Learning empathy, and through it, empowering oneself to change the world.




Adsit, J., (2011). Designing and delivering effective lectures: 12 tips. Buffalo, NY: State University of New York.

Boyle, E., & Rothstein, H., (2003). Essentials of college and university teaching: a practical guide. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.

Christiansen, C.; Roland, Garvin, D.A., and Sweet, A. (1991). Education for Judgment. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press

Davis, B.G., (2009). Tools for teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Dewey, J. (1966). Democracy and education. New York: Free Press.

Doyle, T., (2011). Learner-Centered teaching: Putting the research on learning into practice. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus.

Nilson, L., (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey Bass