Category Archives: Events

Helpful Tools for Teaching Philosophies

Several graduate students and postdocs have asked me to review their teaching philosophies in the past week, and I think some of my colleagues have been providing similar help. Writing a teaching philosophy — whether we’re a grad student, postdoc, or faculty member — can be a difficult thing, since it’s such a personal document and since there’s no one set format. In this blog post, I’ll provide a quick overview of some resources that can make the job easier:

–If you’re like me and learn best by having examples to analyze, check out our compendium of philosophies submitted by Penn State faculty and graduate students. The philosophies are grouped by discipline. I find browsing through the examples to be helpful — I get to see the many different ways people organize their philosophies. You can find additional examples on the teaching-philosophy sites of the University of Michigan  and Ohio State.

–We’ve also provided a rubric you can use to evaluate the draft of your teaching philosophy. For a different rubric, see the University of Michigan’s site.

–The teaching centers at Vanderbilt University and Ohio State both offer a good overview of the process of writing a teaching philosophy.

–If you’d benefit from some small-group discussion about the process of writing a teaching philosophy, attend the Schreyer Institute’s workshop on “Preparing Your Teaching Philosophy for the Job Market,” which will be held on March 14 from 11:15 to 12:30. Lauren Kooistra and Andrew Porter, the graduate instructional consultants at SITE, will be leading the workshop.

–And finally, if you’d like some one-on-one feedback, we’d love to schedule a free consultation with you. Just drop us a line at to set up a time.

Technology resources for teaching and learning @ PSU

Chas recently invited me to talk to faculty and graduate students during one of our Course in College Teaching (CCT) sessions.  I discussed a wide variety of technologies available to Penn State instructors from a wide variety of units (see the 1-page resource document). I spent a good portion of the time showing different pedagogy approaches using blogs, wikis, video and games for teaching and learning. 

Some interesting questions from the group (some I could not answer unfortunately):

– How does intellectual property work if I’m designing a course in the blog or wiki platform for online delivery?

– How do I know if my students are plagiarizing or using copyrighted material in video projects?

– How do I decide whether to use a blog or a wiki in my course?

I was able to tackle the final question, mostly because it’s a pedagogy question; it depends on what you’re trying to get across to your students or have them learn.  That will likely dictate which platform you use.  Both the blog and wiki platform overlap in my mind, in terms of the things you can do with them.  I’ve seen Science Education courses using the blog as the centerpiece of the course, and I’ve seen the exact same use in Psychology courses but using a wiki. 

I’m unsure about how IP works, and from my days in IST and elsewhere I get the feeling that is a case-by-case scenario, depending on how the instructor is being compensated for creating the course.  The question dealing with copyrighted material in videos…I can’t really think of a good way to decipher if your students are using copyrighted material or no.  Any suggestions?

Sir Ken Robinson and Higher Education

Today, we held a noontime round table to watch a short video from “Conversations from Penn State” with Sir Ken Robinson on creativity and education.  Some of you may have seen his TED talk on education reform, and this video covered similar territory.  We had a handful of Schreyer people in attendance, as well as faculty and advisers.  A few interesting topics were discussed after the video, one being discovery majors.  Our Division of Undergraduate Studies does a fantastic job helping students identify good majors, but we were discussing more the idea of faculty and advisers encouraging students to go outside of a discipline track if they aren’t happy, and try and discover majors on their own.  For instance, even within a College, a student might not be encouraged to enroll in courses that are somewhat tangential to her own major.  But, by doing so the student might discover she is much more excited and engaged in the tangential subject. 

Coincidentally, when I came back to my desk after listening to Sir Ken and talking about education reform, I had a chance to finally read an interview titled “What’s Wrong With the American University System“, an interview with Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, authors of Higher Education?  The interview, and likely the book, paint a bleak picture of higher education across America, specifically in the area of undergraduate teaching.  The authors specifically address tenure at one point in the interview, claiming that it doesn’t preserve academic freedom, something they claim it was intended to do.  From the article:

They [faculty] have to do things in the accepted way that their elders and superiors require. They can’t be controversial and all the rest. So tenure is, in fact, the enemy of spontaneity, the enemy of intellectual freedom. We’ve seen this again and again. And even people who get tenure really don’t change. They keep on following the disciplinary mode they’ve been trained to follow.

I do find some interesting and curious aspects of the tenure process here at PSU, but is it as bleak as the authors describe in this quote?