VisCom Prof

My teaching strategy

If the two primary game plans for teaching are sage on a stage versus guide on the side, I am the guide. Yes, you attend my classes because you expect to learn new things. Yes, I keep up with the ever-expanding knowledge base in my field. However, if I am simply a sage providing you with well-organized, concise, clear information, then you could replace me with a book or PowerPoint presentation.

I get ready for class by studying and use good presentation techniques so you can understand the subject. Make note: understanding is not learning. Learning requires effort by you.

You must read and think. You must apply your ideas by writing and using equipment such as cameras and computer software. My job is to help you learn, not merely understand.

I think of myself as a coach. Coaches teach their players and make their players practice what they have learned. Coaches are motivators who also dispense blunt, harsh feedback. I opt to provide feed back in a more constructive manner.

My first step is to set a high but achievable goal. Instead of “you are going to win the national championship!” my goal might be “you are going to produce a set of outstanding photographs, or an excellent video, or a publishable quality research article.” Next, I assess your skills. I will most likely find a gap between your current skill level and the skills needed to meet your goal.

Factoring your skill discrepancies in, I create a plan. It might be: In order to accomplish your goal, you first need to learn xx, which will enable you to do yy, which will help you achieve your overall goal.

Then we go to work. You need practice. I give it to you. You get it in numerous assignments with prompt feedback from me. The more we interact, the more you learn.

My key tactic is to challenge you to dare to fail, and then help you redo assignments as often as needed. You will fear this tactic. You want safety so you can earn a good grade with minimum effort. Be prepared for a different experience. You will go places you have not gone before and I will motivate you to go beyond what you already know. If you do that, you cannot help but learn.

I expect initially disappointing results. I prepare you for it, too. Then, I show you how to grow. I give you the tools you lack with helpful coaching, focused guidance, and much practice (i.e. rewriting). Eventually, you will break through and succeed.

Here are some tangible results of this teaching philosophy:

Accessibility. I am readily available for your questions or concerns. The easiest way to contact me is at Regular office hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 2 until 4:30. You may drop by my office at 4027B in Carolina Coliseum during those hours or make an appointment for another time. Or, call me at 803-777-3002. If necessary, my home number is 803-929-3176.

Reward solid understanding with high scores. This idea has two parts. First, if you cannot demonstrate high understanding, you do not receive a high score — regardless of the amount of effort you exert. Second, expect challenging examinations and evaluations. I use them to distinguish who has a high understanding from who does not.

Clear presentation of the subject matter. I always aim for clarity. Some class periods, my highest priority is to present subject matter as clearly as possible. Other class periods, my goal is to make you think. Those days you may be more engaged in the discussion than I am. I may ask you questions you do not know the answer to and make you find the answer yourself or guide you along the way. You need to share ideas and learn to apply, analyze, and evaluate the subject matter. You learn more by participating in vigorous discussion. Use consistent and clear standards. In this course, it may seem as if the grading is subjective. Often, I find it difficult to assign accurate grades. To help you and me, I provide a rubric for as many assignments as possible. I also show examples of good work done by previous students.

Stimulate interest in the subject matter. If I am successful, you will be more attentive, curious, and enthusiastic about the subject matter. It is much easier to learn about something you are interested in than something you are not.

Good class preparation. As the guide, I enter the classroom ready for whatever direction we take during the class period. That way, instead of a set agenda, we can be flexible and spontaneous.

Blackboard and Internet resources. I use Blackboard for announcements, sharing course documents, and posting grades.

Welcome and respect your opinions. Everybody has one. I have mine and I express them. However, they are just that, my opinions. I understand people have different value systems, beliefs, and so on.

Your feedback. I often seek feedback about my teaching, writing, videography, and more. To be honest, I hate it when feedback is critical. Criticism hurts my ego, especially when I tried hard. Critical feedback, though, whether it is for you, or me leads to improvement.

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