Teaching Philosophy

I am committed to the education of the whole person.  In order to provide the challenges and opportunities necessary to grow intellectually, emotionally, morally, physically, and socially, I strive to maintain tension between academic freedom and honesty, critical thinking, individual and corporate dimensions of knowing, and hospitality to those with different values or presuppositions in the classroom.

Academic freedom encourages independent and creative thinking as well as the ability to disagree respectfully with the position held by others. I believe that the student is responsible for mastering the articulation of key facts using discipline-appropriate terminology as a common language and basis for class discussion while allowing the student the freedom to respectfully disagree by demonstrating critical analysis of the course material. Academic honesty is foundational for learning and character development. Using sources well and clearly identifying what is one’s own work and what is another’s contribution are foundational skills that I emphasize in my courses because not only is this respectful and good scholarship, but to identify which ideas, phrases, and concepts are from the work of others and which are one’s own is also a matter of personal integrity.

Learning to think critically and adaptively is accomplished incrementally.  I design assignments to explicitly build problem-solving skills and provide a space for adaptive thinking.  Working from Esther Meek’s covenantal epistemology, I provide my students with opportunities to build their understanding of concepts and skill in evaluating life situations from foundational texts and practices of the field of study so that they can learn to see the world as leading specialists in the field see the world. I choose reading material that provides models for problem-solving skills and encourage students to evaluate their personal experiences using the vocabulary of the field of study.  I utilize Bloom’s taxonomy to schedule a variety of assignments that allow students to demonstrate their increasing mastery of new concepts and skills over the course of the semester.  Because of my training in the sciences, I am committed to the sequential development of skills and understanding of concepts across a curriculum. As a historical theologian and chemical engineer, I work from an interdisciplinary approach and both implicitly and explicitly model this approach for my students. Having worked in a variety of industrial, academic, and volunteer environments, I strive to provide my students with the opportunity to acquire transferable skills (critical thinking, writing, and foundational academic research methods) while learning discipline specific content.

Hospitality is essential for both the individual and communal aspects of education.  Both individual efforts and the role of coming to know in community are essential elements of growing as a whole person.  I model my classroom instruction on David Kolb’s theory of experiential learning to foster the development of a community of learners.  Hospitality toward oneself and to the other as a learner is an essential value that is required not only for learning to take place, but for the students to practice in their jobs after graduation.

Because of my spiritual formation in the Methodist and Episcopal traditions and subsequent academic theological formation in the Reformed and Jesuit traditions, I am committed to the education of the entire person. In the classroom, this means that I work to help students become mindful of the role of authority, reason, and experience in taking what they know, what they are learning, and how they are applying this knowledge (wisdom) into all of life.