Teaching Philosophy Statement

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Experiential Learning and Theoretical Frameworks

Updated October 2023

My teaching philosophy is grounded in an undergraduate experience that not only transformed my education but my life.

On Wednesday, September 12, 2001, my media production professor, Dr. Jim Seguin, walked into our Television Production 2 classroom, calmly placed a garbage can in the front of the room, and asked each of us to put the course syllabus in the trash. He asked us to think and respond to the previous day’s events very quickly as a class, and we spent the remainder of the semester creating a documentary. We got out of the classroom, traveled around the East Coast, interviewed people, and edited late into many nights over yet another pizza. Our completed work won awards, received national attention, and sparked the creation of a center for documentary study at the university.

It was pretty clear to me even back then: When I became a professor, I wanted to teach from the same heart as Dr. Seguin and have the courage to throw away the syllabus when necessary. I am a firm believer that this kind of experiential learning can lead to transformative educational experiences with long-lasting impacts, but those experiences must also be grounded in theoretical and critical thinking frameworks.

I have found that learning happens when we begin asking questions and investigating answers. I believe that the most important question that we need to ask — and answer — is: “Why?” Although the technology and techniques change, the sociological, psychological, and behavioral theories behind why we do what we do remain consistent. For instance, it’s one thing to look at a selfie on Instagram; it’s another to analyze that selfie using the frameworks of the classic sociological theories of social presence or self-presentation.

I also believe in the importance of critical thinking. In a rapidly evolving media landscape, teaching the techniques of using digital technologies isn’t enough. We need to apply what we’re learning through critical thinking strategies that encourage us to adapt to any technology that is placed in front of us. My favorite question to ask is: “Just because we can do something, does it mean we should?”

I encourage intellectual curiosity — for all of us. The door to the classroom does not separate us from the real world and vice versa. I believe that it’s important we bring current events into class for discussion, whether that’s discussing the most recent viral meme or diving into the latest gaming trend. By analyzing these things through theoretical frameworks and concepts, we can begin to make sense of the world around us. That being said, I don’t have all of the answers, so I find myself in the trenches alongside you as we learn together (even if that necessitates a pizza or two along the way).

Finally, the importance of a polished presentation cannot be underestimated. You will learn that strong communication skills, including the ability to write and speak effectively, are critical to success in the digital media industry. Every opportunity to write a short response paper or give a presentation on a research project is an opportunity to strengthen those skills and should not be taken for granted.

After all, something that begins as a simple class project might become work that changes your life forever.