Students are totally central to the Luther College liberal education experience, and faculty members and support staff at Luther understand this. Thus, Luther College faculty and staff seek to understand student needs and respond thereto by committing themselves, holistically, to the academic, personal, and professional needs of the students.
Fundamentally, the goal of the instructor is, as I see it, to make a connection with each student at his or her own level and in such a way that the student maximizes his or her own learning potential. If done correctly, the student is motivated to engage new material and seek new paths of understanding.
The focus of this teaching philosophy statement is on the initial connection, wherein the student engages new material, and the means by which students seek new paths of understanding. These two are obviously interconnected. I have specifically endeavored to maximize these two aspects of the student experience at Luther College in my classes, laboratories, advising and service oriented activities. In so doing, the focus of my activities has not been so much my own teaching but, rather, on my effectiveness in stimulating positive student growth. Necessarily, stimulating positive student growth requires the instructor to understand how a student engages the material initially, how he or she makes the initial connection. As a teacher, I try always to put myself in the place of the learner, to re-experience the freshness and challenges of the new material. I become a student anew and look at the material from fresh perspectives and with renewed enthusiasm. For the student, however, enthusiasm is usually coupled with a certain sense of dread, as the new material unfolds itself in its worldly complexity. The student's initial connection with the material becomes clouded with a torrent of facts that lead to a variety of interpretational options. I try to anticipate the uncertainty the student experiences and then guide the student to a thorough understanding of the problem and the potential solutions. As scientists, the student and I narrow down the potential solutions to a most likely solution. This is the process which I try to foster in classroom, laboratory, research, advising, office, service oriented and informal settings.