Teaching Philosophy<!-- --> | <!-- -->Ben Pettis
Ben Pettis

Teaching Philosophy

July 11, 2023


Across multiple years of teaching across different institutions, modalities, and contexts I have developed my perspective that teaching is a collaborative process. In my research, I consider how people’s everyday encounters with online spaces differs from idealized views of who a “User” is. I bring a similar awareness into my teaching by encouraging students to engage with the content and assignments in multiple ways, rather than only following my own initial assumptions of how a course should be structured. I see my classroom as a space where I can work alongside students to help them course learning outcomes in ways that are individually effective and meaningful.

Whether a class is taught face-to-face, online, or in a hybrid format, I look for ways to incorporate multimodality to provide students with options for how to engage with course content. In a media production course, I produced short tutorial videos on using Adobe Photoshop. Instead of requiring students to sit and watch me complete a task step-by-step, they could watch the video at their own pace—skipping ahead or back depending on their own needs. The videos were available to outside of class, a valuable resource as they were completing their own projects. In a fully online course, I created a shared document for each class session in which students could collaboratively take notes during group-based discussions. Even students who were reluctant to turn on their cameras or speak in front of everyone were able to contribute their thinking to the class discussion.

Another way that my classroom is a collaborative environment is through open discussions about my reasoning behind certain assignments or course policies. In a class where I used quizzes, I explained that beyond incentivizing completing assigned reading, my goal was to practice their summarizing skills. I wrote questions to signal the main themes or topics from a piece and made the quizzes a low-stakes proportion of the overall course grade. In a “Critical Internet Studies” course, I introduce a discussion on generative AI by noting that because many universities are banning the use of tools like ChatGPT, I want them to think about how technology works alongside its cultural perceptions. Because I directly shared my thinking and goals, student discussions were more nuanced and effective.

Finally, I am continually developing my teaching by learning from others as well as sharing my own experiences with colleagues. I regularly seek out pedagogy workshops and trainings to incorporate new ideas into my classroom. Additionally, I share many of the assignments and other resources that I create with other instructors. For the media production course, I created one-page handouts for in-class tutorials and activities; these were still being used by instructors in future semesters, and I also published them online to share beyond my institution.

Because I see teaching as a collaborative process, I am always looking to learn from others as well as share my experiences with other instructors. This perspective continues to shape my own growth as a teacher, and I hope that my students leave my courses having been able to engage in ways which are individually effective while also appreciating the significance and complexities of the topics at hand.