Statement of Teaching Philosophy

In my mind, teaching should provide opportunities for multiple types of learning that unfold in response to how students enter the classroom (or engage the digital space). I like to use the phrase, “Filling the Chalkboard,” to capture my perspective, as the chalkboard represents the space where the teaching meets the students: where plans change to best fit the class.

It is in this collaborative space that instructors can read the positive or confused looks on students’ faces and react accordingly. Filling the chalkboard with sketches and definitions just is meeting my students head-on. It is where my pedagogical goals are molded and shaped to the students in the room so that they learn more, learn more easily and see their teacher cares.

Of course, I do not just fill the chalkboard in my teaching, but it is a key component in my attempt to 1) model it for them before I 2) practice it with them before I 3) expect it from them. In class I first pose questions (often in form of an outline on the board), then work to answer some before sowing the seeds of the class answering later questions together (often in supervised small-group work) which prepares them for completing future readings and assessments on their own.

This sort of modeling and reinforcement is also at work in other types of learning opportunities that meet the needs of students and seek to support successful learning. For example, I like to provide online reading quizzes (in both online and face-to-face classes) to students before class, not so much to grade their comprehension, but to provide them with resources that help them frame their reading and how they understand it (part of why I allow two or three attempts). Providing access to these types of questions on a weekly basis also gets students used to the way I ask and frame questions. I have found that this type of exposure prepares students for exams, ensuring that they do not have to spend time interpreting my phrasing, but rather demonstrating their learning and comprehension to their best abilities.

At the macro level, filling the chalkboard is a hope that, in my teaching, I will keep aiming for students and not merely toward my own most precise way of putting things. It is the hope that I am not teaching passive students who could be best served by a mere handout, but that I am teaching autonomous individuals who can, through their questions and comments (and facial expressions) help guide our class as well. The chalkboard is the physical space in which I, as a teacher, am responsive to students. It is the place where, after the class, someone could come in and see something different than my lesson plans, something unique to our class, our space, and our time (they would get a glimpse of how my pedagogical plans unfolded).

And that, to me, is the beauty of philosophy: because it is about a process (and not about a canon of facts) we get the privilege of using that dynamic learning space to open up and lay bare our inquiry about the world. Somehow, through reading and talking about how others thought of things, we are able to think about the world in a way that we never had realized was possible before. In my experience, students shine when careful planning means spontaneous revision inspired by the students as they are when they enter the classroom.



About benjaminjh

Benjamin Hassman is Director of the Conversation Center ( and a Lecturer in the Rhetoric Department at the University of Iowa. The Conversation Center builds on his experience with Service-learning, peer-leadership programs (like the Berwick Boys Foundation) and teaching for the Rhetoric Minor, including Speaking Skills, Advanced Speaking Skills, and the Conversation Center’s own RHET 2090 Conversation Practicum (based on an experiential learning model). His PhD in Philosophy of Language studied paradoxes, and their implication for how we understand the relationship between our sentences and the world.
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