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Philosophy of Teaching
Don Rodney Vaughan
Department of Communication
Mississippi State University

Conceptualization of Learning
Acquiring knowledge by instruction or study is learning, which, of course, is the purpose of education. For learning to occur the sine qua non is for students to recognize that the subject matter is important. Learning is bridge building, i.e., unfamiliar content is made more meaningful by bridging from what is known to what is unknown. Learners are a varied and unpredictable group. It may take a visit to my office for one-on-one instruction before a student learns something that others in the class learned in five minutes. Learners actively construct their own understanding; they are not passive recipients of information.

Conceptualization of Teaching
I define teaching as the process by which I help students learn. I guide learning by helping students individually, at other times instructing an entire class, and still at other times by encouraging class participation. Spontaneity is a valued part of teaching. If the teaching appears memorized, not spoken diaphragmatically, not spoken with eye contact, and if there are no visual aids, learning will likely not take place. I am a facilitator of learning and as every good cognitive theorist would do, I allow the learners to take center stage. Listening to students’ comments during class and interjecting my comments and-or corrections is teaching. I came up with the acronym APPLE which stands for a teacher’s main duties: Get the class’s attention and keep it. Be prepared for classes. Check students’ progress. Love teaching, and set a good example for the students.

I like to think of my ethos as a large diamond. At the upper left of the diamond is my competence of the subject matter. At the upper right is my integrity. At the lower left is my likeableness, and at the lower right is my confidence. I want all four qualities to sparkle

Former Mississippi State University President Donald Zacharias pointed out in a commencement address that by the time we finish four years of college, we will have had approximately 100 teachers in our lifetime. I, as a teacher, am needed in society, needed as much as the medical doctor, the fireman, the plumber, the postal worker.

Goals for Students
One of the goals I have for my students is for them to learn to think critically and to become skillful listeners. I want them to be ethically conscious, and, of course, to become effective public speakers and effective news writers respectively. The foremost goal for my broadcast news writing students is for them to learn how to gather news from the field and become proficient in clear, succinct, accurate writing in oral style. News writing skills are developed more readily by working in short practice sessions spaced widely apart, rather than longer ones held closer together. Students also learn better if they know the immediate results of their work; therefore, I evaluate work and return it by next class time.

Implementation of the Philosophy
In the classroom, how are my concepts about learning, teaching, and goals for students transformed into classroom activities? I guide students in recognizing that the subject matter is important by writing key ideas on the board, stating the learning objectives before the instruction, cuing the class “to make a note of this please,” and giving and asking for examples. My animated facial expressions, gestures, intonation patterns, diaphragmatic speaking and proper posture are keys in underscoring the importance of content. I encourage students to voice their ideas about the subject matter and to ask questions. This type of classroom climate melts icy inhibitions toward attentiveness and participation. Learning involves active thinking. The student also teaches by sharing insightful comments. Some teachers talk for a long time before asking any questions to generate discussion. This puts students in a passive role. Then when they do finally direct a question to the class, if no one responds, they will either go on with the lecture or begin to answer their own question within as soon as five seconds. It’s as if they think silence will kill the class, but silence can be a tool to invoke thought. When I get no response to a question, my rule is to wait as long as I feel comfortable, then silently count to ten, then rephrase it, but rarely do I have to do this. Since I don’t talk but just a minute or two before asking a question, they are not caught off guard when I ask a question. Therefore, they respond quickly. If I waited longer before asking the first question, they probably would not be as responsive.

Plutarch said, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” One of my roles is to kindle the fire of my students’ minds. I create a learning atmosphere by using a variety of teaching methods including small group exercises, videos, in class demonstrations. I adapt my teaching methods to students rather than expecting my students to adapt to my teaching methods. Ample statistics reveal that 75 percent of the United States population are extraverts, which makes the ratio three extraverts to one introvert. Is there any wonder why elementary, high school, and sometimes college teachers have to tell students “be quiet?” Typically school is designed for the introvert, who listen quietly to lectures, work quietly when given exercises, raise a hand before speaking, all within a milieu of straight chairs and uniform rows. I take into account the 3-to-1 ratio and adapt the classroom to most of the students, rather than forcing them to adapt to the classroom. PowerPoint lectures are more suitable for the introverted student. Since extroverts outnumber introverts 3-to1, I use PowerPoint sparingly. PowerPoint software was developed to serve the needs of the corporate boardroom and to convey absolute authority. A slide show is more likely to deter discussion than stimulate it.

Professional Growth Plan
I will list five primary goals which I have set for myself as a teacher. The first is to keep pace with developments in classroom technology. At the university, seminars designed to advance technology in the classroom, are continually offered and I take advantage of these learning opportunities. Secondly, I value feedback from students and teachers. Aside from the regular forms that students fill out to evaluate their teachers, at midterm I give students a questionnaire to learn their suggestions for improvements in the course for the last half of the semester, and to learn the level of satisfaction with the course and me. I invite faculty members to sit in on my classes to get their input on how my teaching could be improved. A third goal is to be well read on the latest articles from journals such as Communication Teacher, Communication Education, and the like. A fourth goal is to attend conferences of the National Communication Association (NCA) and the American Education of Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). Last, but certainly not least, is my goal to have one paper published per semester year. There is no dividing line between research and teaching.

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