Professional Studies Faculty
Matthew J. Grawitch, Ph.D.
My Teaching PhilosophyTo be an effective teacher, I must often take different roles as the situation dictates. There are five roles that I may take at any given time: Lecturer, Questioner, Emotional Manager, Challenger, and Energizer. I try to be aware of the role I am in at any given moment, balancing my own desire to take a particular role with the needs of my students.
The role of Lecturer gives me the opportunity to provide the important declarative and procedural knowledge required for success in the course. I tell them what they need to know. I give them the key facts (declarative knowledge), and I explain to them how to apply those facts (procedural knowledge).
The role of Questioner allows me to examine what students think about a particular topic and why they think the way they do. This provides both undergraduate and graduate students with an opportunity to crystallize their own knowledge and understanding of the subject. They learn what they think about a particular topic and why they think that way by responding to my questions. Although it is important to have the declarative and procedural knowledge that can be regurgitated on an exam, it is also important to be able to logically explain and discuss a particular topic. When teaching graduate students, the role of Questioner also allows me to learn from the experiences of my students. By posing a question and listening attentively to student responses, I have the opportunity to add to my own understanding of the subject.
The role of Emotional Manager gives students the opportunity to discuss ideas and concepts that they are passionate about. When in this role, I give students an outlet for their passion and allow them to vent their feelings about the topic. This can be very helpful in generating ideas and discussion points that help all members of the class to gain a deeper insight into the course material.
The role of Challenger gives my students the opportunity to reflect on their own knowledge and skills and identify goals that they should achieve to reach some desired end state. For some students, the desired end state is nothing more than obtaining a satisfactory grade in my class; but for other students, the desired end state involves not only achieving a good grade, but attaining some level of competence with regard to the subject. If students truly desire to reach some final end state that is difficult to achieve (e.g., to become a competent psychologist), then they must be willing to objectively evaluate the level of their current knowledge and skills. There will inevitably be gap between the skills and knowledge students currently possess (where they are now) and the competencies they desire to master (where they want to be in the future). They must then be willing to set goals directed toward decreasing the gap between where they are now and where they want to be in the future.
Finally, the role of Energizer allows me to focus on getting my students excited about a particular topic. This can be very difficult for some topics, as students often do not feel the same excitement as I do. It is at these times that the role of Energizer becomes most critical. I must be able to keep their attention and motivate them to learn and apply the course material.
My teaching methods incorporate CERCA learning approaches as often as possible because there is a direct link between CERCA learning approaches and the five roles I am called upon to take. CERCA methods involve providing students with Concepts, during which time I take the role of Lecturer. Providing students with basic declarative and procedural knowledge is an important first step in developing basic competency. CERCA methods also involve the provision of opportunities to engage in Experiential activities. Taking the roles of Questioner and Energizer, the experiential activities I use focus on getting students energized about the topic and providing them an opportunity to apply the declarative and procedural knowledge they have gained. The application of declarative and procedural knowledge therefore provides them with rudimentary tacit knowledge. Additionally, CERCA methods require students to Reflect on the declarative, procedural, and tacit knowledge they have gained. Taking the roles of Questioner, Emotional Manager, and Challenger, I create an environment that facilitates critical reflection about the subject matter as a means of making Choices about the future (e.g., setting goals to push them toward their desired end state). Finally, CERCA methods require Action to be taken. Taking the role of Challenger and Energizer, I try to create an environment in which students are driven to obtain more advanced declarative, procedural, and tacit knowledge, through both their own initiative and in future courses. If students are driven to take action, the CERCA cycle begins anew, and students will seek out additional concepts and experiences that lead to deeper reflection, more informed choices, and more focused actions designed to drive them toward their desired end state.
Because I emphasize declarative, procedural, and tacit knowledge, student evaluations are based on both the recall of declarative and procedural knowledge and the application of that knowledge to real world situations (tacit knowledge). Furthermore, because of the emphasis on critical reflection that is inherent in the CERCA approach, exams and assignments often focus on the critical evaluation of concepts and ideas presented in class.
To turn the classroom setting into a CERCA learning environment, I use many techniques in my teaching (e.g., lectures, discussion, experiential activities). For example, I use lectures to provide the concepts that are important to the course, and I use in-class discussions to begin the process of critical reflection. Because CERCA learning requires an open, honest, and constructive environment, I also try to attend to student needs and adapt my course, when possible, to meet those needs. This requires establishing an environment of mutual trust and respect between student and teacher, an environment that promotes honesty and dialogue.
In the end, I want students to develop four general competencies in any course. First, I want them to understand the important declarative and procedural knowledge required for future mastery of the subject (the first stage of CERCA learning). Second, I want students to be able to apply the declarative and procedural knowledge that they learn in my courses, whether in their personal, educational, or occupational realms of experience. By applying declarative and procedural knowledge through experiential activities (the second stage of CERCA learning), students develop the tacit knowledge important when applying concepts and ideas to real world problems. Third, I want students to be able to think critically about important concepts and applications (the third stage of CERCA learning), especially regarding the deeper philosophical orientation that often underlies them and their relation to other important domains outside the course itself. Finally, I want students to be able to identify personal goals that must set to increase their mastery of the subject, so they can more effectively make choices and take actions that will help them to be successful in the future.