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Statement of Teaching Philosophy
 
 

 

  We each have preconceived and often misconstrued notions of how our world works based on our own unique sets of experiences, observations, and cultural histories.  I believe that effective teaching must incorporate these rich and varied experiences, for it is through those experiences that we interpret our world.  Teaching is an organic process that involves far more than just the telling of discrete facts. Facts are important, but when they are placed in context, a deeper, more meaningful understanding is developed. Effective teaching promotes critical thinking, personal reflection, and the ability to form novel connections and drive the student to ask more penetrating questions.

It has been argued that our species should be Homo narritus rather than Homo sapiens, for we truly are storytellers.  It is through stories that we make sense of our world. We incorporate our experiences and observations into usable explanations—whether they are correct or not is another matter.  I once overheard a little girl, bouncing with excitement, tell her mother that she had just figured out what made the wind blow.  “It’s the leaves, momma. When they move, they make the wind,” she said, squealing with delight.  We all carry emotionally laden explanations of how something works; they can be strongly held and as wrong as leaves making wind, and can remain firmly seated until challenged by discrepant events.
As scientists, we know our stories are complex, and that can make them all the more difficult to tell.  But new stories, like hats, need a place to hang.  We learn through the restructuring of old concepts and the assimilation of new ideas.  It is our job as educators to help guide the restructuring process; we provide the necessary context associated with discrete facts to help establish connections between the new ideas we are presenting and the learner’s preexisting experiences.  This is a dynamic process.  Through the use of manipulatives, experiments, demonstrations, and discussions, we can build a framework upon which complex concepts can be mounted.  More accurate connections allow the student to better recall and, more importantly, use these new concepts to make novel connections.  It is through novel connections that discovery is made. 

To facilitate this style of learning I feel the lecture classroom should incorporate diverse forms of presentation, but should emphasize open dialog where possible.  By engaging the students directly and encouraging discussion I can follow their growth and increasing familiarity with the material as well as discover and address areas of misunderstanding.  In addition, the classroom should be an environment in which the student feels comfortable, engaged, and knows they are active partners in the learning process—a safe and dynamic community of learning. 

There is an extraordinary benefit in having an informed citizenry that can critically evaluate complex problems and make well-formed decisions.  Our students will become the leaders of tomorrow and they will face significant challenges.  A strong foundation in the biological sciences is essential if we are to move forward responsibly.

 

 
 
   
   
   
2005 D.M. Lovelace • Contact