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Philosophy of Teaching Don

Rodney Vaughan
Return to writing a philosophy statement
Philosophy of Teaching
Don Rodney Vaughan
Department of Communication
Mississippi State University
Conceptualization of Learning
Acquiring knowledge by instruction or study is learning, which, of course, is the
purpose of education. For learning to occur the sine qua non is for students to
recognize that the subject matter is important. Learning is bridge building, i.e.,
unfamiliar content is made more meaningful by bridging from what is known to
what is unknown. Learners are a varied and unpredictable group. It may take a
visit to my office for one-on-one instruction before a student learns something
that others in the class learned in five minutes. Learners actively construct their
own understanding; they are not passive recipients of information.
Conceptualization of Teaching
I define teaching as the process by which I help students learn. I guide learning
by helping students individually, at other times instructing an entire class, and still
at other times by encouraging class participation. Spontaneity is a valued part of
teaching. If the teaching appears memorized, not spoken diaphragmatically, not
spoken with eye contact, and if there are no visual aids, learning will likely not
take place. I am a facilitator of learning and as every good cognitive theorist
would do, I allow the learners to take center stage. Listening to students’
comments during class and interjecting my comments and-or corrections is
teaching. I came up with the acronym APPLE which stands for a teacher’s main
duties: Get the class’s attention and keep it. Be prepared for classes. Check
students’ progress. Love teaching, and set a good example for the students.
I like to think of my ethos as a large diamond. At the upper left of the diamond is
my competence of the subject matter. At the upper right is my integrity. At the
lower left is my likeableness, and at the lower right is my confidence. I want all
four qualities to sparkle
Former Mississippi State University President Donald Zacharias pointed out in a
commencement address that by the time we finish four years of college, we will
have had approximately 100 teachers in our lifetime. I, as a teacher, am needed
in society, needed as much as the medical doctor, the fireman, the plumber, the
postal worker.
Goals for Students
One of the goals I have for my students is for them to learn to think critically and
to become skillful listeners. I want them to be ethically conscious, and, of course,
to become effective public speakers and effective news writers respectively. The
foremost goal for my broadcast news writing students is for them to learn how to
gather news from the field and become proficient in clear, succinct, accurate
writing in oral style. News writing skills are developed more readily by working in
short practice sessions spaced widely apart, rather than longer ones held closer
together. Students also learn better if they know the immediate results of their
work; therefore, I evaluate work and return it by next class time.
Implementation of the Philosophy
In the classroom, how are my concepts about learning, teaching, and goals for
students transformed into classroom activities? I guide students in recognizing
that the subject matter is important by writing key ideas on the board, stating the
learning objectives before the instruction, cuing the class “to make a note of this
please,” and giving and asking for examples. My animated facial expressions,
gestures, intonation patterns, diaphragmatic speaking and proper posture are
keys in underscoring the importance of content. I encourage students to voice
their ideas about the subject matter and to ask questions. This type of classroom
climate melts icy inhibitions toward attentiveness and participation. Learning
involves active thinking. The student also teaches by sharing insightful
comments. Some teachers talk for a long time before asking any questions to
generate discussion. This puts students in a passive role. Then when they do
finally direct a question to the class, if no one responds, they will either go on
with the lecture or begin to answer their own question within as soon as five
seconds. It’s as if they think silence will kill the class, but silence can be a tool to
invoke thought. When I get no response to a question, my rule is to wait as long
as I feel comfortable, then silently count to ten, then rephrase it, but rarely do I
have to do this. Since I don’t talk but just a minute or two before asking a
question, they are not caught off guard when I ask a question. Therefore, they
respond quickly. If I waited longer before asking the first question, they probably
would not be as responsive.
Plutarch said, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” One
of my roles is to kindle the fire of my students’ minds. I create a learning
atmosphere by using a variety of teaching methods including small group
exercises, videos, in class demonstrations. I adapt my teaching methods to
students rather than expecting my students to adapt to my teaching methods.
Ample statistics reveal that 75 percent of the United States population are
extraverts, which makes the ratio three extraverts to one introvert. Is there any
wonder why elementary, high school, and sometimes college teachers have to
tell students “be quiet?” Typically school is designed for the introvert, who listen
quietly to lectures, work quietly when given exercises, raise a hand before
speaking, all within a milieu of straight chairs and uniform rows. I take into
account the 3-to-1 ratio and adapt the classroom to most of the students, rather
than forcing them to adapt to the classroom. PowerPoint lectures are more
suitable for the introverted student. Since extroverts outnumber introverts 3-to1, I
use PowerPoint sparingly. PowerPoint software was developed to serve the
needs of the corporate boardroom and to convey absolute authority. A slide show
is more likely to deter discussion than stimulate it.
Professional Growth Plan
I will list five primary goals which I have set for myself as a teacher. The first is to
keep pace with developments in classroom technology. At the university,
seminars designed to advance technology in the classroom, are continually
offered and I take advantage of these learning opportunities. Secondly, I value
feedback from students and teachers. Aside from the regular forms that students
fill out to evaluate their teachers, at midterm I give students a questionnaire to
learn their suggestions for improvements in the course for the last half of the
semester, and to learn the level of satisfaction with the course and me. I invite
faculty members to sit in on my classes to get their input on how my teaching
could be improved. A third goal is to be well read on the latest articles from
journals such as Communication Teacher, Communication Education, and the
like. A fourth goal is to attend conferences of the National Communication
Association (NCA) and the American Education of Journalism and Mass
Communication (AEJMC). Last, but certainly not least, is my goal to have one
paper published per semester year. There is no dividing line between research
and teaching.