emiltowner.com

Teaching Philosophy

I believe the best teachers don’t just know their disciplines; they know how to ignite students’ imaginations and interests. They don’t just answer questions; they promote new questions. They don’t just lead a class; they prepare students to lead themselves, their peers, and their communities.

Reaching that level of engagement with students requires a number of factors, including knowledge and preparedness, as well as the ability to listen and mentor. I keep these elements at the forefront of each course I teach. For example, I make sure that I have course materials – from handouts and slideshows to assignment sheets and helpful links – prepared, organized, and readily available to students. Additionally, I develop lessons that include time for exercises and group discussions that provide students with opportunities to express themselves in a safe setting that is open to new ideas and even differences.

I also work hard to model the type of behavior and action that I expect from students. That includes treating students (and their views) with respect, as well as being transparent and forthright with grades and assignments. It also means becoming involved in issues I am passionate about – such as working with a community organization, speaking at public hearings, and continuously researching and writing about important social topics. After all, knowledge and ideas can make a difference only if they’re acted upon and negotiated in the public sphere.

To help students elevate their knowledge and ideas in such a way, I design my courses to apply and impart three aspects: discovery, analysis, and action.

The first aspect – discovery – focuses on the importance of opening oneself up to new ideas, new perspectives, and even new subjects. For example, I have infused past classes with a wide variety of subjects, ranging from post-9/11 rhetoric to the way in which corporate, political, and public figures respond to accusations of wrongdoing (and how those responses reflect and shape our values and beliefs), and I encourage students to engage with and research new social issues that impact their lives.

The second aspect – analysis – involves critical thinking skills, in which students learn to unravel claims and evidence, question unexpressed assumptions, and evaluate the potential harms versus the potential rewards of arguments and ideas.

The third and final element challenges students to put their own ideas into action. Sometimes that means developing a paper, business report, or website for a college course. But it also means submitting a letter to the editor, engaging with peers in their chosen careers, volunteering for a non-profit organization, donating to worthy causes through microfinance companies, or becoming involved in local politics and public administration issues.

Those elements are present in each course I teach. The key is for students to gain the confidence needed to participate in the world around them and lead others in ways that benefit and shape their local, national, and global communities for years to come.