The most important part of my tutoring strategy is to make the students understand that the process of learning is a dialogue and not a monologue: learning requires collaboration between the student and her or his tutor. It is, therefore, critical to make sure that during my tutoring hours, every student feels comfortable contributing her or his thoughts and arguments. I have found that if your students can laugh with you (though hopefully not at you), they become much more ready to discuss their thoughts and arguments.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Babes-Bolyai University, Romania - Bachelors, Philosophy
Graduate Degree: University of South Florida-Main Campus - PHD, Philosophy
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
The Socratic method is central to my teaching style. This method, which is also the heart of the practice of philosophy, is a dialogue between a mentor and students. Historically, this method has been associated with polemical discourse. I prefer to encourage an atmosphere of community, respect, and relational independence. I aim to teach through a pluralistic and engaging conversation, not through talking past my students or having them memorize exactly what I say; I want students to become comfortable hearing their own voices. Using this method properly requires knowing which questions to ask in order to prompt the students appropriately, not merely knowing what answers to provide to students. Since students provide the answers, they are learning to teach themselves and becoming independent learners. The sense of community and respect is reinforced through the process of coming to know, not simply on one’s own, but with the help of their instructor and their colleagues. I see students not as containers for my knowledge; instead, I see my role in the classroom as one of guiding students while they transform themselves. Philosophy is a discipline with a rich history, and more importantly, is one that is constantly evolving and progressing. Philosophy, when taught well, will move students beyond seeing the subject as something they learn, that is something they must pass to get on with the business of seeking a degree, to seeing philosophy as something they do. When I develop a course, I seek to balance strengthening core competencies in the subject matter and illuminating how philosophy has informed and intersects other disciplines throughout the history of ideas. This is done, in part, by organizing course readings and activities in a way that highlights the fact that philosophy is not a singular, unified, homogeneous discipline. Rather, I see philosophy as a way to view the world, a tool to help us better engage in it and as an exercise in situating knowledge. Helping students to understand theories in their historical and cultural contexts is the first step in seeing philosophy as more than a subject to conquer. From a position of situated understanding, I train my students to evaluate historical and political events by having them map out who is involved, how the event might be judged from a multitude of perspectives, and why their informed opinion is justified. I see coursework as a means to not only evaluate how well a student is grasping the material, but also a means through which they can experience philosophy. The assignments and activities I develop focus on bringing the students into conversation with a variety of agents, including themselves, classical figures throughout the history of ideas, fellow students, and the broader academic community. In addition to class discussion and open dialogue, I organize student debates, assign group presentations, short critical thinking papers, and require active engagement on the course website. I try to limit my use of traditional exams; however, when exams are an appropriate measure of student progress, I employ a bank of essay questions from which students have a choice. Allowing students a choice in what they answer enables them to focus on developing arguments in a context they are most comfortable. When organizing debates, I endeavor students to consider and present arguments from a variety of perspectives, bringing students into conversation with one another. Both the group presentations and paper assignments focus on examining current debates such as space exploration or sustainability and climate change. The primary goal of the short critical papers is to hone student’s critical thinking and writing skills, while the primary goal of the group presentations is to sharpen student’s research, presentation, and team building skills. Through the use of technology, such as course blogs and discussion forums, students are able to exchange ideas, post news articles interconnecting with the course material, and see how the material they learn is directly relevant to their lives.