Susan Orr



Teaching Philosophy

My primary goal as a teacher is to help students become more critical and reflective thinkers about life and ideas. If I can do this, then regardless of their future occupation, they may emerge from college as more active and concerned citizens, as well as better readers and clearer writers.

In various ways I try to strive for balance in my pedagogical style and academic approach. First, it is important to me that students of all backgrounds and abilities feel comfortable in my classroom and respected as individuals. However, I believe it to be equally important to challenge students to be reflective about their ideas and beliefs, and to establish the highest possible standards with respect to achievement. To that end, I attempt to set academic goals that lay out clear expectations yet stretch students ability, and seek to provide help and support to ensure students surpass their own expectations whenever possible.

Second, I believe education should be fun, exciting and engaging. I seek to incorporate current affairs and topical events into my teaching whenever possible to make academic material alive and relevant to student’s lives. When possible I seek to use original and diverse materials rather than merely pre-digested textbooks. I am enthusiastic about my subject matter, and view learning as a cooperative endeavor. Thus, while I certainly lead and guide students and ensure they have a thorough comprehension of material, I also stress that I do not have “all the answers” and that I consider learning a life-long process. I encourage students to ask questions and seek help and ensure they have ample opportunity to do so. I like to gather mid-term feedback with respect to students own opinion as to their progress in the class, as well as materials and teaching techniques they are finding particularly helpful or troublesome.

Third, I believe that attendance and preparation are important for student success. Hence I emphasize class attendance is mandatory unless there are adequate mitigating factors. I feel that students benefit from preparation of brief summaries of readings or critical thinking questions and hence incorporate them into my class requirements with a view to facilitating enhanced classroom participation and discussion. I ensure that students have clear instructions with regard to assignment due dates, and believe it is important, with respect to fairness and career preparation, to insist that students meet deadlines. I am of course reasonable and accommodating where students provide understandable reasons such deadlines cannot be met. Finally I like to be as encouraging, fair and helpful to students as possible and to that end try to reward good work, effort and improvement generously.

For additional information on my work in the Fellows Program, please see my action research report, Picturing Power.