Professional Website of Gary A. Harris

  My Personal Teaching Philosophy

We live in a world to which we attach our own ideas of reality. To understand the role and importance of education in our lives, we must first recognize the realities, real and perceived, in our lives. That recognition will provide the launch pad for determining where we are and where we want to go. My personal teaching philosophy is drawn from over 30 years of "real world" experience. This experience includes 20 years in the United States Air Force, three years as a public employee in state government, 19 years as an independent consultant, 12 years in education, and 25 years as a single parent.

"A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind."

    -- Robert Bolton

I believe that learning is simply the process of obtaining new knowledge that you previously did not have. This knowledge can be in the form of information or new skills. I personally believe that everyone has the capacity to learn and that learning can happen anywhere, anytime. My role as an instructor is to do my part to facilitate learning. The following elements are my beliefs that make up my personal teaching philosophy:

Responsibility, Involvement, and Commitment: I believe that these elements are on a two-way street. Both the instructor and the student must take responsibility for the learning process. It is the student's responsibility to be prepared to learn, participate in learning, and do their best to learn. It is the instructor's responsibility to be prepared to teach and do their best to provide quality instruction. Learning occurs only when information is received, understood, and internalized. For this to be successful, the instructor and the student must be completely involved in and committed to the learning process.

Positive Experience and Effective Environment: I believe that the learning process must be a positive experience to be the most effective. We, as instructors, must do what we can to provide a positive learning experience. One way we can do this is by establishing and maintaining an effective learning environment. An effective learning environment is free of any hindrances to learning, such as biases, prejudices, and personal opinions. In addition, students should do their best to make their learning experience positive as well. It will make them better students and have an immediate and long term impact on their lives.

Enthusiasm, Synergy, Motivation, and Interest: I believe that instructors must synergize their students to foster enthusiasm in the subject matter. Motivated students who are genuinely interested in the subject succeed in learning far more than unmotivated students. This aspect of learning helps the learning to stay with the students far beyond the class and has a positive impact on the student's professional and personal life. This is probably the most important aspect of learning.

"The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving."

    -- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Professionalism, Integrity, Flexibility, and Currency: I believe that education is a profession requiring a high level of professionalism and personal integrity. Professional instructors, leading by good examples, will be more effective and pass on a valuable lesson to their students. Instructors must be flexible. This will provide the capability to react to different situations and work with students with different learning curves. I believe that instructors must keep up in their field and with the latest teaching technologies and techniques. This, too, will make them a better instructor.

Feedback and Reinforcement: I strongly believe that both the instructor and the student should provide feedback. Feedback to students provides reinforcement in the learning process. Feedback to instructors provides valuable information on the effectiveness of the instruction. All feedback should start and end on a positive note. It is important that feedback is acted on, not just filed away. This will make for better instructors and students.

Academics and Instruction: I believe that course objectives, curriculums, and lesson plans should be developed so they are practical, creative, flexible, and understandable. Course objectives must be applicable, attainable, and measurable. My teaching methodology is strongly influenced by Gestalt learning concepts and the systems approach to teaching. I believe in presenting the subject matter as an entire logical process so students can see the "big picture". The subject matter can then be broken down into smaller, bite-sized pieces of instruction. I believe this to be an extremely effective method of instruction as it allows the students to see the subject matter from two different views. I further believe that the subject matter should be presented in a "real world" format. This will better prepare them for the "real world".

"I touch the future. I teach."

    -- Christa McAuliffe