submitted as part of an e-portfolio to my educational institution
The Participative Experience
I am convinced that the essence of the humanities cannot effectively be taught solely by formal lecturing, nor passively learned by rote memorization. Students don’t study the humanities so much as they experience the humanities. That cultural ground of being that we lump under the rubric of the liberal arts/humanities will only nourish those who actively participate with it.
It is my demanding but rewarding job as a teacher of the humanities, therefore, to conduct a directed and disciplined exchange between the student and the material under consideration. My task is to arrange specific opportunities for students to actively engage in classroom discussions and debates, while simultaneously creating and maintaining an atmosphere that encourages and rewards critical thinking about perennial human values.
Outcomes & Expectancies
Students who conscientiously confront the relevant topics and actively participate in assigned readings/discussions can potentially expect to (1) stretch and expand their capacity for thought, sensitivity, creativity; (2) learn to prune from their thinking sloppiness, superficiality, superstition; (3) substantially enhance their ability to sift through and analyze complex ideas, to compare/contrast alternative points of view, to discern patterns and larger connections, to evaluate the merits of competing claims, and to articulate and persuade others both verbally and in writing.
Students will not put much effort into learning competencies they do not perceive as relevant. Consequently, I consistently challenge my students to consider what could be more practical for success in today’s world than developing a better organized mind; a mind capable of distinguishing false from true, fact from opinion; a mind enhanced in its ability to read, write, compute; a mind open and attentive to the world; a mind trained to be curious and confident.
When all is said and done what we in a humanities classroom seek to accomplish is to yoke a mind with a text. (By “text” is meant a painting, a film, a sculpture, a symphony, a poem, a theory, etc.) I have carefully crafted collaborative projects and topics designed to maximize student interaction with the artifacts of cultural history. I actively moderate discussions by encouraging and challenging students to engage in critical thinking and to explore course materials at the deepest level. And in that confrontation of a properly-seeded imagination with a carefully-chosen text, something incredible is always on the verge of happening. A mind stretches, an imagination grows, consciousness expands, humanity blossoms.
Since completing my MLA in Humanities at the University of South Florida in 1988, I have been able to develop my teaching skills from within a classroom setting. But now that I teach only distance learning courses, the exciting challenge I have set for myself is to translate my pedagogical vision into the online environment. I continually seek to incorporate the best of the new technology into my courses, always with the goal of providing students a richer, more active learning experience.