Enthusiasm is the central tenet in my teaching philosophy. As a leader in the classroom, I strive to convey my passion for the process of learning. The contagiousness of excitement opens doors for collaboration and communication, motivating students to learn not only from me but from each other.
Class discussion is a breeding ground for this kind of enthusiasm. When students are given a voice in the classroom, they are given an opportunity to take ownership of their education and shape it to their own interests and needs. To promote this kind of active involvement, I incorporate provocative discussion questions in nearly every class, even when the majority of my time at the board or projector is devoted to traditional direct instruction. In a recent lecture on the perils of parallel fifths and octaves, for example, I left the last quarter of the hour to discuss why this kind of intervallic motion should be so despised in tonal partwriting yet so prevalent in modern popular idioms. The lively discussion that followed touched on the aesthetic preferences of different audiences and the arbitrariness of the lines we draw between them. In other cases, a class meeting may be designed around analytical investigation in small groups, an inquiry-based approach in which I act as a wandering facilitator and question-answering resource.
It is of the utmost importance to me that students be given opportunities for critical reflection, not only on the topic being taught, but also on the topic's place in the curriculum and in the larger sphere of academic thought. This is a central facet of my upper-level/graduate analysis seminars. Here, the exclusively discussion-oriented setting allows us to explore subjects on multiple levels simultaneously. With my students at Crane, for example, many of whom are training to become music educators, we will often address the process of a particular analytical technique while weighing its role in pedagogical tradition against its validity as a reflection of the modern listening experience.
As a teacher, I recognize that there are no limits to knowledge and so allow myself to learn alongside my students. Encouraging interaction with my students both in and out of the classroom, I try to make myself as available as possible. Doing so acknowledges those students who may not be comfortable in a traditional classroom setting and fosters a safe and productive environment.
The central role of technology in contemporary society carries over into my teaching. I believe that higher education has much to gain from e-learning platforms such as Blackboard, Moodle, and Sakai. Whenever possible, I construct extensive course webspaces to supplement my lectures. Musical examples, practice quizzes, and lecture outlines are made readily available, and students are given a virtual space to voice their opinions and share their insights in fora and chatrooms. Various in-class technologies have also been very useful. A majority of my lesson plans incorporate PowerPoint visuals, either as the centerpiece of a particular lesson or as a clarifying supplement. I have also found PowerPoint to be a particularly effective organizational tool during the planning phase of a lesson. Of course, I recognize the limits of technology as well-and the pitfalls of overusing it-and routinely evaluate how these resources may best be used. I am always ready to black-out a PowerPoint if I feel it has become distracting, or if the conversation veers organically away from the lesson as planned.
As an undergraduate, I was lucky to experience a true liberal arts education. While earning a B.A. in music, I had the opportunity to take electives in a wide variety of fields. When, after graduating, I decided to pursue a career in higher education, I realized it was not the specific material I'd learned that drove me, but the thrill of learning and the challenge of expanding my perspectives, of investigating why people do things and becoming a more tolerant person as a result. It is this passion for self-reflection and renewal that continues to drive me and that I hope to share with my students.