Teaching Philosophy – Jeannette A. Moore
North Carolina State University, Department of Animal Science
I am excited to have the opportunity to share my Teaching Philosophy with you. To me, “Teaching Philosophy” means “what I believe in and how I apply it to teaching and learning.” I can write about the things that are important to me, but I wish I could use pictures, examples, video clips, web pages, and small group discussions to make it more interesting. In the absence of my usual tools for sharing information and generating interest, I will do my best to put my thoughts down on paper.
Enthusiasm is a word that captures the passion, the excitement to learn and share new information, and the overall sentiment I have toward teaching. I love teaching and advising, and I hope to continue to contribute to both for many years to come. My Teaching Philosophy is a collage of thoughts and ideas that go together and work well for me, but I know that one strength of the university system is for all faculty to be able to develop and employ the techniques and skills that work for them. The following ideas represent my style and my opinion, but I also value the opinions and styles of other educators.
There are several points I consider to be important when it comes to teaching, the first one being a passion for teaching. By that I mean looking forward to being in the classroom, enjoying the updating of materials, welcoming “drop-in” students, and seeking out opportunities to share ideas with colleagues. All of these are part of what it means to be passionate about teaching, but none of them on their own will describe what passion is. When students describe a passionate teacher, they say something like: “he/she really cares about the students, I learned a lot, and classes were never boring. He/she motivates students to learn, and I enjoyed the class very much.” Passion is number one on my list of what is important when I think about my teaching philosophy.
Second on the list, but essential in every aspect of teaching, is respect. A teacher needs to earn the respect of the students, for respect is not something we can demand from students. The first step in earning their respect is to treat them with respect. Their lifestyles are often different than mine and their opinions usually differ widely on political and social issues, but my position of authority does not give me the right to look down on anyone or to try to change their beliefs to be more similar to mine. I welcome new ideas and encourage students to think for themselves, which is the first step in letting them know I value them as people and I respect them. This brings a richness to my life that I would not enjoy if I were not willing to listen to students’ opinions, career goals, and other thoughts. Listening is a key part of being a good teacher. I am referring to really listening and being willing to change my opinion or outlook, not merely being quiet and allowing a student to speak.
Respect in the classroom is also critical. I don’t believe in trying to embarrass a student in class to show others that they had better do their homework. I don’t believe in ever embarrassing another person intentionally. If a student is brave enough to answer a question posed to the class, or to ask a question in front of his/her peers, I always find a way to start my response on a very positive note. For example, “That’s a good question, and I’m sure others in the class are wondering the same thing…,” (not: “I just covered that 5 minutes ago; weren’t you listening?”).
Along the same theme of respect is the third point I would make when discussing my teaching philosophy: There is always more than one way to answer or to do something. Often times in lab I have to remind myself of this and resist the urge to step in and show a student “the right way to do it.” For example, when formulating rations or doing other calculations, some students are comfortable using stoichiometry and others prefer to use ratios. Both methods work just fine, and what is important is to let the student “learn by doing” so he/she will remember how to do the problems after leaving my class. To me, stoichiometry is so logical and so easy to understand that I am tempted to show students how to do it my way (shed the light, share the knowledge), but experience has taught me that this results in confusion and frustration on the students’ part. Now I work the problems both ways so I can help students think through the process regardless of the method they choose.
Letting students try things on their own and sometimes accomplish the task in a different way than I would requires patience. I’ll list patience as the fourth point in this teaching philosophy, but in actuality it is a component of respect, of listening, and of experiencing different viewpoints and different techniques of accomplishing tasks. Being patient and allowing students the time to think and to experiment is critical to providing an environment conducive to learning.
Learning. Many people would expect that to be number one in a discussion of someone’s teaching philosophy, and it is the key focus in all my classes and labs. I believe all of the things I mentioned above go together to provide an environment that is conducive to learning, so in essence I have painted the background before putting the subject in the picture. Learning is the main subject, and everything we can do to encourage learning is part of one’s teaching philosophy.
Learning is gaining new knowledge, knowing how to apply it, and retaining the information beyond the classroom. Yes, some memorization is necessary, but memorized facts by themselves are not actual learning by my definition. In order to build the whole picture, I let students know WHY we are covering the material we will go over in class, and I try to show them ahead of time HOW the information will be useful. This motivates them to want to learn, and they seem to retain the information much better when they are eager to learn it.
Good teachers are engaging, which sometimes can be described as entertaining. Everyone has his or her own style of teaching, and every good teacher finds the classroom dynamics that work best for him or her. What works for me is to walk around the class, to encourage questions and comments, and to ask questions. I love to present case studies and to help students reason through the problem to come up with possible solutions. The initial reaction to this is often one of disbelief: “But Dr. Moore, we don’t know enough to work this out!” After we take it one small step at a time, I can see students’ expressions change as they start to expand beyond the “facts” that they know. It is so rewarding to see their eyes light up as they contribute something to the discussion. I want students to leave the classroom with a sense of satisfaction, but also with the itch to learn more. I think providing real world examples and letting students know how and when the knowledge could be useful contributes to their desire to learn.
Some students learn more slowly than others or have to work harder than their peers. As part of my teaching philosophy, I’d have to say it is important to let students know that doing their best is what is important, not getting the highest grade in the class. Some students who do their best and never rise above a “C” average seem to think I should value them less than the “A” students. I make every attempt to let all my students and advisees know that being a good person and doing one’s best are what is important. If a student does his/her best and fails a course, I hand the student the box of Kleenex I keep on my desk, wait for the emotions to subside, then provide support and encouragement as we work through a strategy to do better next time (get a tutor, arrange study groups, etc.). I let students know I still respect them and value them as people as long as they are doing their best.
We should let students know what the expectations are. Providing a complete syllabus that includes a schedule of topics, reading assignments, due dates, learning outcomes, how grades are calculated, and other pertinent information is essential. Students should have this information by the first day of class, and I always post my syllabi on the Learning Management System (currently Moodle) along with supplemental materials to help the students learn.
It is important to stay current in the discipline as well as in the fields of learning and education. I have been very active in NACTA (North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture), which is a great way to enjoy professional development through the NACTA Journal and the annual conference. I attend meetings and conferences for my discipline (Animal Science), and my roles in Cooperative Extension and the family farm help me provide current real-world examples in my courses. I attend, and encourage other faculty to participate in, professional development workshops and other related activities (such as the Reading Circles) at N.C. State University.
Faculty should continue to improve their courses, to develop new courses, and to be involved in curriculum revision. Participating in Peer Review of Teaching, both as the person being evaluated as well as serving on Peer Review teams, is extremely beneficial to the faculty member and ultimately to the students. The scholarship of developing new courses, new course materials, and new materials to facilitate student learning, as well as sharing that information with colleagues, is important to remain effective as a teacher. Evaluating the curriculum and the role courses serve in the curriculum is equally important, and I believe it is valuable to serve on curriculum committees and in other roles to continually improve classes, curricula, and student learning.
In summary, my philosophy is as follows: I should respect the students and in doing so earn their respect; I should take the material and present it in a way that is appropriate and understandable for the level of the course being taught; I should use as many visual aids, models, figures, and pictures as possible to help illustrate points; I should have a “contract” with the students (a.k.a. syllabus) that outlines the learning outcomes and specifies the grades that correspond to the points earned; and I should maintain a professional yet caring relationship with the students (in other words, stick to the rules but understand when a student has a health problem or a death in the family). Outside the classroom, I should continue to participate in professional development and scholarly activity, for these activities will ultimately benefit the students as well, and I should continue to be involved in relevant committees and professional organizations.
I love my job. I love to be in the classroom, to meet with students outside of class, to participate in student club activities, to serve as a faculty advisor for students, and to see them grow and develop as people. I enjoy professional development and scholarly activities. Everything I can do to help students to learn and grow is part of my teaching philosophy.
Last updated June, 2021