Note: The text below is just example of what a teaching philosophy statement might look like. It is NOT meant to be an “official” Penn State teaching philosophy. Instructors/pedagogical experts often disagree on different issues.

Why I Love …


There are lots of reasons to love linguistics, but I have always been facscinated with how linguistics intersects with other topics. The range includes acoustics, archaeology, anthropology, biology, psychology, Boolean logic, sociology, education, reading and writing, literature, cooking terms, statistics and these days GIS! Linguistics will teach you a lot about the world. I’ve never been in a position to travel as much as I would like, but linguistics and foreign language really allow you to not only travel the world, but travel in time.


A good learning moment for me happens when I understand something new about the world, especially when I am able to see patterns or insights I could not see before.

A good teaching moment happens when I see students start to make the same connections.

Cognitive Assumptions

As a linguist, I take a cognitive view of learning. Having said that, there may be teaching practices that are known to work without necessarily understanding the entire cognitive process. Based on my linguistics background, reading of educational research and personal observation, I assume that

  1. I define learning as a change in long-term memory.
  2. Learning can only be assessed by changes in behavior.
  3. Intrinsically motivated students learn best;
    any steps an instructor can take to increase student interest will enhance learning.
    Unfortunately, an instructor has the most control over extrinsic motivation – so extrinsic motivation must be leveraged too.
  4. Learning in context (i.e. authentic learning) is best.
  5. Instructors are always responsible for structuring content in a usable fashion. In other words, don’t make the classroom more unstructured than necessary.
  6. Providing both structure and flexibility is important. Some students really need a structured environment, but it’s important to allow creative students to tweak the class to their needs.
  7. In some cases, rote memorization is an important first step to deeper learning/expert knowledge. An example is that memorizing a multiplication table can help students manipulate algebraic equations. Memorizing dates and sequences of events can help student understand how to analyze a historical argument.
  8. Not all information is stored in linguistic code. Some information students learn may be stored visually, aurally or even kinesthetically (e.g. which button to push on the iPod). In some cases, that could mean that learning is best accomplished by practice (e.g. games and simulations).

How to Facilitate Instruction

When designing a course, I focus on these points:

Learning Objective Congruency

No matter what you’re teaching or what your pedagogical philosophy is, I believe that understanding your learning objectives is essential. Not which topics you are teaching but which skills you are asking students to learn. Understanding that will help you design better activities and better assessment and help you pick the right set of technology tools.

Authentic Learning

As much as possible, I like to expose students to as much real-world linguistic data as possible. Technology is a great way to demonstrate authentic foreign language pronunciations and real-world linguistic usage (on foreign language Web sites). I’ve also used links to showcase different attitudes towards language.

Short Presentation Bursts

Studies have found that most people can absorb only 10 minutes of lecture (this is about when students drift off in my class), so I try to break up presentations with exercises, questions or anecdotes.

Creating a "Fun" Classroom Experience

I like to use humor, pop culture and student life experiences to add interest to the topic. I also like to include a few "fun" group activities to build classroom rapport. I also use strategies such as incorporating images and video, adding games and puzzles and asking students questions about their lives.