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Pieces of Eight


 

ECU Teaching Award Winners Share Philosophies

The Center for Faculty Excellence will present “Winning Teaching Styles,” Nov. 9 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. in Bate 1010. Participating teaching award winners and their awards are Judith Hunt (Business), Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching; Kevin Moll (Music) and Gregg Hecimovich (English), both recipients of the Board of Governors Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award. Winners will share their love of teaching and how they do what they do so well. Excerpts from the philosophies of professors Hunt and Moll follow. Excerpts from Hecimovich’s philosophy will be included in an upcoming issue.


Dr. Judith Hunt
Department of Management
College of Business

My teaching philosophy is based on my respect for my students. This includes the current timeframe, and the students’ collective future. While what we do today has a current impact on them, it will also have a long-term impact in terms of the ability to think, to persevere, to write, to speak in front of a group, to make a decision that involves their ethics and to investigate the current business environment and organizations. Having respect for my students includes the classroom atmosphere I establish, preparing for classes, and evaluating enough material to get an adequate sense of how well each student has mastered the skills I would like them to have.

Classroom atmosphere and environment is totally my responsibility. I want a somewhat formal classroom atmosphere but not a stifled one. Humor is fine but disrespect for any class member is not. I want the students focused on the material and not distractions, so I try to minimize distractions for them…. It is my habit to keep things very formal and tightly controlled at the

beginning – then, as I get to know my students and each of the classes, I can loosen up and let things be a little freer flowing.

I show respect for my students through my preparation for each class. I want students to have an opportunity to learn no matter what their learning style. That often means going ahead and circling back– covering the same material in a different guise throughout the semester....By using several methods of presentation and evaluation, my intention is to offer the material in a different way for different types of learners and reinforce it. This is more work for me – but I cannot justify any other approach.

I also intend to show respect for my students by providing them enough feedback to make improvements on their work and enough encouragement to have them want to do better. I start by learning their names – and try as much as possible to learn individual indications they are struggling with material. Watching facial expressions, the response to questions (or lack of), and grades on quizzes (which indicate daily preparation and basic understanding) are standard practice for me. That often means writing notes on quizzes;…encouraging them to review their tests by themselves, with each other, and then with me if there are still questions; and asking them to come during office hours for more help when needed.

Hopefully by the end of the semester, I have caught most of the problems and corrected them; so, students are ready for the final. I continue to give an in-class case final examination, which is a pain to prepare and worse to grade, but the reality of learning for some students is that the materials don’t gel until the end. We have little provision for this type of learner in our system. The final tries to correct this by providing a chance for those who have learned the material later in the semester to demonstrate their knowledge. Conversely, such an exam also tends to cull out those who may have benefited from being a member of a great group but did little work.

I hope the respect I have for my students helps them in the long-term. Some lessons are tough for anyone to learn – but I believe one of the most difficult lessons for students today is that some people in life will actually do what they say. I believe that lesson is better learned here than in the workplace, where there is no forgiveness policy. There are times when I wonder why I get up at 4:30 a.m. to reread a case for class if the day before didn’t offer an hour block to do it – even when I know I have read and discussed it many times before. And it all comes down to respect for my students – to offer them what I believe will be a small part of what they need to be successful, however they define that word.

For the vast majority of the myriad facets of teaching, it is fun. There are some difficult parts – determining grades for the semester, for example. I am fully cognizant that grades follow people for the rest of their lives. There are times when grades are clear, and that’s usually an easy call....The agony comes when a student sits right on the border, and the call is mine. I cannot hide behind the numbers – I know it is my best professional judgment and the personal responsibility for this rests with me. That’s when teaching is truly hard work.

Outside of the immediate classes themselves, my concern for my teaching goes beyond reflection. I actively solicit input from other faculty about how they do things, how they handle problems, and what resources are available to enhance teaching and learning....

Teaching is serious business but it is also exhilarating. The energy exchanged in a good class session is invigorating. When that energy is missing, I have to ask – what did I do wrong? I am never fully satisfied with how things are done, and constantly look for ways to provide a better learning opportunity for my students. When it is not fun anymore, I will know it’s time for me to quit.

 

 

Dr. Kevin Moll
School of Music
College of Fine Arts and Communication

In developing a comprehensive educational philosophy, I have found the question of generalism versus specialization to be fundamental. On the one hand, a specialist orientation (i.e. seeking understanding in depth) offers the clearest path to expanding the horizons of a given discipline, especially in graduate studies. A generalist orientation (seeking breadth of understanding), on the other hand, promotes universal skills of critical thinking and probably offers the greatest potential for intellectual growth. Both approaches have their place in the curricula of higher education, and I have strived to cultivate each of them appropriately.

Since becoming established in the field, I have gradually turned from a rather narrowly specialized orientation, evident in my dissertation, toward an increasingly generalist one.… As instructor of a humanities discipline, music history, I now see my chief function as that of guide and intellectual stimulator rather than one who simply dispenses information (although this role is not to be assumed at the expense of delivering expected content or of assessing student achievement). I thus strive to develop students’ skills of self-expression and critical thinking equally with the imparting of concepts and data. These two objectives, indeed, are reflected in my course requirements, which typically allot about 50 percent value each to written assignments and tests.

In today’s college environment, it is vital to consider also the practical aspects of teaching. In this arena, perhaps the foremost lesson I have learned is, “Don’t try to please everyone.” Rather, I believe it is essential to hold to one’s own personal style and principles, particularly in the matter of academic standards. Among other things, this means that one should not allow oneself to be overly influenced by student evaluations. Fortunately our music majors are, as a rule, favorably disposed toward their required music-history studies. Regarding instructional priorities, I tend to emphasize terms, concepts, and processes rather than facts. In upper-division seminars I put a premium on student involvement through oral presentations. Due to the extensive material that must be covered in our music-history sequence, however, I must utilize essentially a lecture format. In this and similar courses I adopt a quasi-Socratic approach, i.e., questioning persistently on key points from the day’s material, in order to heighten student engagement….

In addition to classroom duties, I have in recent years become much more involved in the advising process. As director of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, I am responsible for advising all of its minors. Just this year we have obtained our first major (administered through Multidisciplinary Studies)....

Since my arrival here in 1998, I have constantly tried to advocate, and ultimately to implement, measures designed to achieve a more effective curriculum. Hence I was inevitably involved with the School of Music’s far-reaching core curriculum revisions that came into effect in 2003/04, one aspect of which was a revamping of the music-history component. This entailed redistributing credits, as well as instituting honors sections, ancillary listening sessions run by graduate students, and a required course in world music.…

An integral aspect of my pedagogical outlook is the imperative to follow paths that are intrinsically worthwhile, even if doing so means exceeding one’s official duties. Following this dictum, I have tried to seize upon promising opportunities that do not figure in my job description. Such initiatives include the performances of Renaissance music...that I have directed with ensembles comprising students, faculty and community musicians; the German reading session that I have held with interested students...for three years; the ongoing series of program notes...for the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival, written primarily by music students and the informal music-appreciation seminar that I ran last year for parents during rehearsals of the Eastern Youth Orchestra. Such enterprises, pursued no less vigorously by participants for their total lack of course credit, are living justification of my view that merely tallying numbers of course registrations is a most inadequate yardstick for assessing educational success. On the contrary: I hold that our true viability as an institution may to a great extent reside outside the purview of that which has been deemed worthy of quantification.

I wish to conclude by stressing my commitment to an important facet of education...the obligation for an academic specialist to render her or his expertise accessible to the layperson....In the past I have sought out avenues to make my musicological training accessible to the public through program notes, commercial recordings and articles. Here at ECU, I have similarly tried to reach out in a variety of ways to the greater community.

8/2/10
This page originally appeared in the Nov. 3, 2006 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at http://www.ecu.edu/news/poe/Arch.cfm.