Andrew Joseph Pegoda’s Evolving Teaching Philosophy
Learning is an essential and natural activity for all individuals. Consciously and unconsciously, humans are learning and gathering information–all day, every day, and forever. My interactions with students are informed by adult learning theory and reinforce learning as natural, wonderful, and fun and extend beyond our time in class together. I work from what students know and work toward what they want and need to know, while always making information relevant. I teach because I love learning from both my students and from my research (which focuses on history, philosophy, cultural studies, and Otherness). I also love sharing and discussing ideas and theories.
In my classes, I take active learning to the maximum. We focus on big questions to guide our progress throughout the semester. I also help students engage with material every step of the way. Class time is devoted to brief in-class writing assignments; interactive lessons where we discuss major topics, assigned readings, and analyze related music and film clips; and small group activities, for example. This allows students to regularly engage in the discourses of the class.
My teaching philosophy is further built on the fundamental belief that everyone has potential and that the most successful classrooms rely on students contributions to guide the learning process. The professor, as the subject matter expert, can teach best by guiding students and sometimes just listening. I am not afraid to tell a class, “I don’t know, let’s find out.” There are many questions that the only correct answer is, “It depends.” Students will learn that the “how” and “why” questions are far more important that the “who,” “where,” and “when” questions. I even tell students learning a collection of dates is useless. Ideas, theories, and perspectives, however, are vital. Credit in a college course must be more than a check toward a degree; it must be enriching and life-changing. College should be a rigorous intellectual experience–one unlike found anywhere else in society–and it should be a place where students and professors commit themselves to equitable learning. Finally, I expect and welcome students to communicate with me whether it is about the class or an informal friendly visit – even after the semester.
All learners will find warm, welcoming learning environments in my classes. Research supports my belief that learning occurs best when it involves all of the senses and all of the so-called “learning styles.”
My courses demand a lot but have tremendous rewards. On this note, I also recognize that most students are capable of much more than they recognize or readily admit. Challenging students and pushing students out of their comfort zones, therefore, is absolutely essential if learning is going to occur. But before students will respond to challenges, they must feel safe in the classroom and must know who each other are.
Finally, my best asset as a college professor is my ability to help uncover material in a new and enjoyable way, my passion for the material, and my desire to see students succeed in whatever way that want to be successful. For example, in some classes, instead of exams and quizzes, students blog weekly. This encourages students to think in new ways and allow them to move beyond the Times New Roman, double spaced essay. I am always interested in exploring new approaches.
I also realize that occasionally some of the very best lessons are technically far “off topic.” The ultimate goal of my classroom is to create life-long, open-minded, critical, and creative learners. As a professor, I am always open to change, I am willing to be flexible, and I am willing to share anything.