I approach each course with at least five major objectives:
1. To bring high levels of energy and enthusiasm to class. Learning, I believe, is best facilitated in an energetic environment, particularly with students who take courses in two or three-and-a-half hour blocks, often after working all day. I believe, too, that my own enthusiasm captures the imagination of many students and increases their enthusiasm for the material itself.
2. To be clear in terms of course objectives and expectations, thereby generating a sense of fairness and opportunity for success among students. The failure to be clear about objectives and expectations typically creates confusion in the classroom. Such confusion does not facilitate learning. I therefore specify my objectives and expectations clearly in my course syllabi, repeatedly explain them in class, and invite pertinent student comments and questions.
3. To demonstrate my personal concern for the well being of students as individuals. I am personally enriched from my interactions with students. Accordingly, I work hard at developing a personal rapport which conveys kindness, caring, and openness with students. My intention is not to win their personal approval at the expense of facilitating their goal accomplishment, but rather is to remove personal formalities which are not conducive to a relaxed learning atmosphere. I therefore ask that they call me by my first name, keep scheduled and unscheduled office hours, work at being a good listener, meet with students at their convenience, respond quickly to emails, offer advice when asked, and work hard at practicing what I teach (i.e., service, quality, dedication).
4. To provide a classroom experience which combines the theoretical and practical aspects of the material in a manner which is personally relevant to individual students. I go to great length to introduce students to the practical, theoretical, historical and methodological workings, strengths, and weaknesses of the material, utilizing conversational lectures and discussions about the material. These theoretical components of class are consistently followed with discussions, experiential activities, use of multi-media tools, and story-telling techniques designed to examine the practical applications and meanings of the material. The use of such varied pedagogical approaches is, of course, highly correlated with modern teaching effectiveness.
5. To challenge each student at a reasonably high level. I set challenging but reasonably achievable goals. We are told, and experience shows, that students are more likely to generate highly-motivated and productive student performances if their courses are challenging. In my courses these assignments typically take the form of challenging examinations (with thorough study guides to focus student efforts), thorough and reflectively-based written assignments, and/or written analytical papers (utilizing the material studied to interpret and suggest improvements for real-world problems).