Philosophy of Teaching

As a feminist theologian specializing in Christian ethics, I believe that good pedagogy gives attention to both experience and voice. I see the classroom as a collaborative space where authority is not centralized in the teacher alone, but in a process of learning where everyone contributes. Drawing on feminist pedagogy, I liken the role of the teacher to that of an artist creating a mosaic. Teaching is the work of gathering voices and choosing texts, of pulling together both fragmented and smooth pieces to create a new image that tells a new story. In the process, change happens. Voices that are jagged can become smooth and students who lack confidence can see themselves in a new light.

So how does this work in a classroom? First, I believe this begins in the process of choosing texts. The voices that the students read will shape the ways in which they find their own voice. For this reason, I feel it is important to include diversity in any syllabus. Issues such as gender, race/ethnicity, and social location are important, for if voices are silenced by the syllabus, those same voices will be silenced in the classroom. By bringing diverse, often marginalized, and even conflicting, voices to light, students are enabled to put themselves in dialogue with the texts and with each other.

Teaching is the work of gathering voices and choosing texts, of pulling together both fragmented and smooth pieces to create a new image that tells a new story.

Second, I believe that every course should have well-stated pedagogical goals. When creating these goals, I start by articulating two or three focus questions that we refer back to throughout the semester. I will often begin and end the day’s discussion with these questions. I measure my success in the classroom by the ability of the class to reach a collaborative stride, where the questions change or lead us to new questions.

Third, I believe the flow of the semester must be well-crafted. From the arrangement of the readings to due dates on papers, the process should reflect the pedagogical goals of the course. Time spent in the classroom should also reflect the pedagogical needs of the students. Some courses lend themselves toward forms of embodied participatory learning, where drama and art might be utilized to understand new concepts. Other classes are more geared toward lectures or discussion, but can still include experiential pedagogies such as service learning projects. Creativity that embraces high academic standards can be utilized in order to push students to new levels of learning and new points of transformation.

Fourth, I see grading and teacher feedback as essential to the learning process. I believe my success as a teacher should be measured by the way my students improve over the course of the semester. I see myself as a resource in their educational process, and hope to awaken a love for learning and a love for the subjects I teach.

Finally, I believe what happens in the classroom must be connected to the world outside the academy. Ethics, in particular, does us no good if it remains in the realm of the theoretical. Case studies, statistics, activism, ethnographic research, and personal experience should all contribute to the ways in which we understand ourselves in relation to the world. We must encourage our students to not only know the texts on the syllabus, but to listen to the unwritten texts of individual lives. In my own academic career and in my own research, I keep the question before me of what is at stake. I want my work and research to matter both inside and outside the classroom. I want it to benefit those who have gifted me with their stories and whose lives I have written about. I hope to create the same connection for my students. I hope they see the work they do in the classroom as important to the world outside the classroom doors.

Read my Philosophy of Research