"Teacher of the Year"
Top 10% of Student Evaluations of Teaching Effectiveness (University-wide Award)
Six Consecutive Awards
(2008-2009) (2009-2010) (2010-2011) (2011-2012) (2012-2013) (2013-2014)
The aim of the college, for the individual student, is to eliminate the need in his life for the college; the task is to help him to become a self-educating man.
- C. Wright Mills
Wisdom, one of the four cardinal virtues listed in Plato’s Republic, is more than simply knowledge dissemination and acquisition; wisdom is a practice and a course of action, an art of thinking critically.
As a teacher, my primary concern is teaching students to think – not what to think, but how to think. Everyone thinks; but not everyone thinks critically. I define critical thinking as the ability to judge the validity and utility of statements that are presented for consideration. The consideration of facts and information requires reflection and judgment, without which there may be costly repercussions. This is why the practice of critical thinking connects to a higher moral purpose; our thinking and actions affect others.
Thinking is like any other art: it must be taught and practiced. It serves no purpose to present one with a camera and to expect Ansel Adams-esque photography, just as it serves no purpose to implore our students to think critically without teaching them how. Yet, we expect our students to be possessed of an innate ability to question and analyze the problems and debates within the disciplines that we present in our courses. I believe this problem is systemic and requires a proactive response.
How we think is directly connected to the decisions that we make, and hence to our quality of life as well as the nature of society in which we live. I teach wisdom – the art of thinking – as a practice, as an art, because this is what I value as good learning. My values manifest themselves in my teaching; critical thinking is the guiding principle of my pedagogical approach. I reject teaching as a form of single-minded instrumentalism bound by rigid objectives and testing that encourages knowledge dissemination and regurgitation. Instead, I favour an ultimate belief that teaching should wholly include the active pursuit of thinking as a virtuous practice.
We spend the majority of our formative years learning how not to think, how not to question things, especially the mandates of authority, i.e. parents, teachers, religious leaders, government, politicians, police, law, etc. Uncritical acceptance of normative beliefs in one’s daily life facilitates intellectual conformity in the university, in place of critical and rational thought. I believe that learning to think critically prompts our motivation to improve our lives and the world in which we live, piercing through the imposed system of unquestioned understandings, leaving behind what might have been a life of stagnating intellectualism.
Critical thinking should transcend subject matter and is not something to be measured by the reproduction of discipline-specific knowledge alone. In the spirit of Socrates, I design my course curriculum to encourage and reward the virtues of critical thinking. More information exists now than in any previous historical epoch. If students are to better navigate through life and be prepared for the upcoming problems of their generation, it becomes imperative that they learn how to think in a manner that leads to critically informed and well-thought decisions and actions.
Those of us that serve the community as professional teachers occupy a very special and unique position of privilege, one that we should approach with great care. Teaching should always involve more than disseminating knowledge. Learning is an on-going teaching enterprise, and teaching students how to think enables a lifetime of learning.
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