Philosophy of Teaching

I have been very interested in the process by which people acquire information. My experience teaching at MSU over the last 25+ years has significantly altered my views on this subject. Initially, I thought that teachers teach and students learn, but if this is the correct paradigm, the process is somewhat inefficient--and much more efficient for some students than for others. I have come to the belief that education is a motivational problem and that the most important variable in the education equations:

  1. (material learned)/(material taught) x 100 % = efficiency
  2. (material learned) = (material taught) - (material never learned) - (material forgot) is the student.

I view the educational process as a partnership between teacher and student. Teachers analyze, organize and present material for students, but in order to learn the material, the individual student must go through a very similar intellectual process to that of the teacher in the original preparation of the lesson. Literally, the student must teach themselves the material. Once I realized that education is self-inflicted, this realization caused me to re-think my presentations. This view of teaching and learning explains why the efficiency calculation is somewhat resistant to modifications in teaching methods but highly sensitive to student motivation. Swelling or shrinking the denominator by ten percent is not as important as doubling the numerator (equation 1). This also indicates the importance of reading, studying and writing. In this paradigm the student bears greater responsibility for his or her own education. If education is something we do to ourselves, then teacher and student are in the enterprise together. In the final analysis, teacher and student may have no one to blame but themselves.