I think the most important component of good teaching and a sound pedagogical strategy is a thorough respect for your students. This starts with having a sincere appreciation for the student’s own motivations and interests and letting these factors guide your teaching. I endeavor to tailor classes in such a way where the “material” covered is only meant as a guide to further inquiry by the student. I also structure class to give students plenty of opportunities to further their studies in a direction that interests them. In short, my student-centered orientation is meant to further the capacities and interests of the student rather than impose my own preferences and interests.
My hope is to foster a sense of intellectual and creative self-awareness that allows students to better understand their place in the intellectual context of our time and where they would like to push the boundaries of existing knowledge, inquiry, or expression. Central to this aspiration is my unwavering faith in a teacher-led but student-centered approach. Rather than coach students to “properly,” “realistically,” or “correctly” interpret or employ the material covered in class I encourage novel approaches to certain themes for each course. For example, in guiding students through the capstone project for a course (usually a research paper or final essay of some sort) I encourage students to use outside sources (not simply “course materials”) as well as experiment with styles of writing. I engage in consistent correspondence with students throughout this process and build towards the student’s vision of what this project will look like.
Every course I teach tends to be centered on certain themes or important skills that are needed in a specific discipline or activity. From contemporary political theory to composition and rhetoric, one course cannot give students a comprehensive breadth of understanding in any field. What these courses can do is concentrate on a specific theme (e.g., freedom in contemporary political thought or rhetorical devices and their applications) and have them become fluent in and explore novel ways of approaching the dominant practices and epistemologies of this topic. I usually accomplish this by reviewing not only content specific literature but also critiques of existing trends and established pedagogical practices.
My learning outcomes are varied and specific learning outcomes depend on the goals and nature of the course I am teaching. But, I have a few general goals that I incorporate into any class I teach. I endeavor to 1) foster a sense of equality (non-hierarchical relationship) between the student and the instructor, 2) promote fluency in course content with an eye towards contributing what is learned to the student’s main interests, and 3) having the students be able to apply what is learned in class to everyday and non-university settings.