Towards A Teaching Philosophy  

Andrew B. Wertheimer  

It is still too early in my teaching career to firmly set in stone my teaching philosophy, but teaching LIS was my career goal for several years and has been my profession for the past two years, so the following are some reflections to date. I am posting this online so students can understand my teaching philosophy.

At its most basic level, teaching requires a combination of knowledge and passion.  I hope to be able to convey my own intellectual curiosity and critical attitude to my students.  I believe that my professional experience as a practicing librarian informs my lectures, but realize that professional skills change rapidly, and that what is most important is the process of understanding deeper questions of the roles of libraries and information in our complex society.  As a professor, I see my role not as regurgitating the gospel of librarianship (although it is very important to be introduced to the jargon and concerns of the profession), but rather as a mediator, trying to encourage students to discover LIS from both practical and theoretical frames.  

With such a philosophy in mind I am much more interested in using reaction journals and research projects over computer scored tests. I believe in empowering students' personal discovery process and growth as researchers and human beings, and see an ideal class a combination of lecture and seminar.  As time allows, I am a strong believer in the potential of portfolios and graduate theses to allow students to focus their individual strengths and transform themselves into researchers.  It is my hope that students leave my classes with an increased understanding of the roles of libraries and information that does not remain abstract, but compels them to continue to learn independently and construct their own philosophy of library and information service.  

My biggest challenge teaching at UH is how to empower all students to freely express themselves in class. There is a tendency for certain students to monopolize discussion and for others to be quiet without being called on (combined with a reluctance to be called on). I truly appreciate the willingness of some to speak up, but want everyone to express his/ her thoughts. This is a pressing concern because participation is related to grades, but even more so because public speaking is a key leadership skill.  I sincerely welcome suggestions from students and alumni on how to increase this participation.

As an educator and librarian, I am strongly committed to Constitutionally protected free expression. Exploring socio-economic aspects of LIS is inherently political. Students should feel free to discuss or debate ideas in class. I strongly encourage my graduate students to dissent with what I am saying in class. I sometimes play the role of devil-advocate in order to facilitate critical thinking and discourse. I expect that all comments are expressed with respect for other students, and that ideas are expressed in a logical manner.  I consciously strive not to let student opinions or dissent influence my evaluation, as this would be abusing my power.  To reiterate, I would evaluate a well-constructed argument that I disagree with much higher than one that I agree with, but is not logically expressed or supported by evidence.   

I am a strong believer in interdisciplinary research, and hope to eventually teach cross-listed graduate or undergraduate courses related to my research in the history of print culture and in Japanese American and Jewish modern history if such opportunities arise.  Even without teaching opportunities outside of LIS, I believe that our students benefit from scholars doing research in a variety of disciplines in order to import fresh ideas, prevent tunnel vision within LIS, as well as to increase our connections on campus.  

First draft Spring 2003; Revised Spring 2005.