Friday, November 11, 2016

Telling students my personal teaching goals and philosophy

It is strange that I have never done this. Furthermore, I don't know anyone who does.
Why do this?
First, it is helpful for me to think about and decide what my goals actually are, particular relating to the big picture.
Second, it will be helpful for students to know. Too often they are guessing. Even worst, I fear that most just assume that my goals are theirs. Then they get frustrated if/when they discover their goals and/or values  are different.

So here are some goals I could think of. They are listed in order of decreasing importance to me.

To help you learn to THINK.

To inspire you to learn.

To help you see this is a beautiful subject.

To help you learn skills that are useful in other endeavors (including outside physics).

The help you put this subject in the context of others.

To help you learn the technical details of the subject.

To be your ally not your adversary .

My goals are NOT the following.
(Listed in no particular order).

To make you happy.

To spoon feed you.

To make life difficult for you.

To get high scores on your evaluations of my teaching.

To recruit you as a Ph.D. student to work with me.

Have you ever done anything like this?
Have you ever been in a class where it was done?
Do you know anyone who does it?
Are there benefits?


  1. Ross - very interesting post.

    All US engineering programs have to define goals/objectives for students as part of their accreditation process. Here is a link to this for my program:

    The accreditation process requires that quite a lot of care is taken to show what we actually do in our courses maps onto our stated objectives in a meaningful way.

    Your list, however, is more personal and I suspect would be extremely helpful to students if shared with them.

  2. I've never been in a class or taught one that does this.
    I do think it is a very good initiative and fits exceedingly well in the communication at the beginning of a course containing "this is what we are going to cover, this is what is expected from you (effort...),". Adding "this is how I approach our working through this material" is indeed very good.

  3. Prof Richard Felders web site has alot to offer about teaching.

    In the above web site , random thoughts section has well written articles.