K. H. Grobman

Teaching Philosophy

Helping students learn and grow to fulfill their potential is my life-long passion. This passion has led me to many teaching experiences and informs my program of research. I have taught several types of classes: from mathematics and physics to psychology. I have also taught students from diverse backgrounds: economically underprivileged children, academically gifted high-school students, and undergraduates. Both my practical experiences in the classroom, and the energy I devote to theoretical issues focus on how children learn to solve problems. For my Master's thesis on Logic, I taught early adolescent children how to solve algebra problems in several different ways. An examination of their problem solving showed that dedicating class time to learning basic concepts of algebra such as, "what the equal sign means" helps children to manipulate equations, and use math flexibly in new contexts. Based on my experiences, I believe there are three facets to teaching well: pushing, structuring, and caring.

Teaching is not repeating what is written in a text-book. Teaching well involves pushing students beyond where they feel comfortable so that they start to learn about what seems, at first, incomprehensible. To really learn, students need to actively construct their own knowledge. This is the principle I keep in mind when preparing a lesson plan. In the first few weeks of class, I try to make about 95% of what I say readily understandable to most students. The other 5% illustrates to students that even when parts of a class are in lecture form, they need to pay careful attention and actively think about the material in order to understand all of it. As weeks pass, I try to push students to actively think about even more material, tailoring the precise amount of "hard-to-understand" material to the students' progress.

The second facet of teaching I feel is particularly important is the way an instructor structures a class. This is one of the most concrete aspects of teaching, and also one of the most discussed. In addition to careful planning outside the classroom (e.g., in preparation of the syllabus and lesson plans), it is important to think carefully about the tone set in the classroom. For example, instructors sometimes are a bit hesitant to begin class until most people have arrived or before everyone is quiet. This tacitly tells students that class does not begin on time; more students start arriving late, and an undesirable cycle has begun. I have systematic routine for beginning class so that when I say, "good morning", students know that class has begun.

During class, I casually stroll about the classroom because students naturally address their comments to the instructor during discussion. I try to stroll to the opposite end of the classroom from the student who is speaking so that his or her comments are heard by everyone in the class.

Perhaps the least tangible, but most important facet of teaching is caring: caring about your students and caring about the subject matter. To me, nothing is more fascinating than watching people learn and grow, and nothing is more rewarding than helping them to do so. Students are remarkably sensitive to this type of caring in their instructors. When students see that you care, all other aspects of teaching are made easier. When I experiment with different activities to illustrate concepts for example, I find that it is not the success or failure of any one activity that students remember, but rather the effort I make throughout the course to make the material engaging. The way an instructor cares is what seems to stay with students most.

I feel that I can bring to a Psychology classroom enthusiasm for teaching, expertise in the subject matter and experience in the classroom. I would appreciate the opportunity to teach classes in Introductory and Advanced Developmental Psychology, Research Methods, Statistics, and Introduction to Psychology.