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Robert W Gehl

Associate Professor

Department of Communication

University of Utah

My Teaching Philosophy (circa 2014)

I have now been teaching at the college level for eight years. I realize that this amount of experience does not make me a master teacher by any means. However, from this short period, I have gleaned three methodological insights that I use to guide my practice:

Although these seem like abstract methodological assumptions, I've found that they are useful in building a course. Demonstrating love of the material raises the standard for lectures and in-class discussions: it means that I have to own the material I'm discussing. And it means that if a student asks a question I cannot answer (and believe me this happens!), I model the process by which I find the answer to show the students that questions aren't "gotchas" and not having the answer isn't a problem - the problem comes when we don't delight in figuring out the answers.

Teaching to the highest level guides me in designing assignments. I come up with assignments early in the semester and provide them to students as soon as I can, along with a rubric that lays out standards for A, B, C, D, and E papers. The standard for A is, of course, excellence, not mediocrity. And, by giving these rubrics out early, I've found that students come to me early to get help getting to A. I do my best to get them there.

Finally, being prepared to learn means that I build courses with discussion and exchange in mind, rather than lectures. Even in classes of 60 students, I pepper any lecture I give with many open-ended questions. Sometimes, I simply get the students into group to tackle big questions. I feed on students' analyses of questions and their ideas, because as a whole students are wonderful at discovering new ways of thinking about whatever we're covering.

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