I have been fortunate to continuously teach in higher education institutions in Tennessee since 2002. The teaching approach as well as the methods and technologies used in the classroom have evolved since I started, yet my main teaching philosophy essentially remained the same. My primary responsibility as an instructor is to create an environment that should stimulate students, their learning abilities, and problem solving skills, and to help students reach their full potential. Education process implies not only giving the answers but also developing the tools that make students find them on their own. I am interested in students understanding the concepts of the subject and not memorizing them, and I pursue that by giving quizzes and exams that are focused more on critical thinking and solving original problems rather than on reproducing theories or previously presented examples. Although this approach might not be liked very much by some students during the semester, it is more beneficial to them in the long run. In general, my focus is not only in student success in the current class but also in the success in the next Chemistry class a student needs to take.
An aspect of teaching that I value highly is consistency in assigning grades. I believe that students registered to the same class in different sections should be assigned grades consistent to their overall knowledge of the subject, independent of the section they register. Of course, I do not have any control of assigning grades in sections I do not teach, but I try to assign grades in my section that are consistent with the other instructors. Something that I can control and actually do regularly is trying to assign grades in a class that are consistent to grades in classes I taught previously. I accomplish that by giving ACS standardized tests as final exams in my classes, something I consider to objectively assess the overall knowledge of a class, and adjust (or “curve”) the results of the tests I prepared to match the final exam results.
Although the exams I give to students in my classes might be excessively difficult, I am considering the limitations some students may have in fully understanding some aspects of the material, and the grades I assign in my classes usually take into account these limitations. I don’t find these difficulties surprising when considering the difficulty of the subject and the large amount of background information that students should possess to excel in Chemistry classes. I am however less forgiven when evaluating the level of effort that a student exhibits as measured by attendance, working on and turning in assignments, and the overall desire to pass the class.
I enjoy very much interacting with my students, and I have an open-door policy to my office. A direct student-teacher interaction is, in my opinion, the best way of learning. I always encourage students to come by my office and discuss with me the problems they have understanding the material. I like to devote special attention to students having problems in the class and wishing to improve. More than once I have scheduled weekly meetings with students to monitor their progress and to help them develop particular skills.
In teaching my classes, I am seeking very high standards for myself by being always well organized, punctual, clear and concise. I believe that my students deserve the best (not the easiest) education possible; therefore I put forth my best effort to help them succeed in my classes as well as their academic career. It is my desire to inspire my students and to transfer to them my enthusiasm and love for Chemistry, and I keep searching for better ways to doing so.