Cuesta College San Luis Obispo County Community College District
  Mark D. Turner, Mathematics
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My Teaching Philosophy


I love teaching. I teach because I enjoy it, and because it is something I can do pretty well (from what past students have told me). One of the greatest contributions I can make as an instructor is to foster within you a desire to learn. Second to this, I hope to stimulate your interest in mathematics specifically by communicating my own enjoyment and appreciation of the subject. Many students view mathematics as a disconnected, lifeless set of rules that seemingly have little practical value. I try to convey the idea that mathematics is vibrant, useful, and necessary as a means for describing and analyzing the world around you. I attempt to make relevant connections within mathematics and between mathematics and other subjects. I also hope to share with you an appreciation for the rich history and intrinsic beauty of mathematics as a pure discipline.

There is not much benefit in teaching with obsolete information or outdated methodology. I am committed to staying current in the field of mathematics and teaching pedagogy through personal research and by participating in classes, conferences, workshops, e-mail discussion groups, and mentoring. Teaching is a craft, a skill that needs to be continually nurtured, sharpened, and evaluated.

I believe that learning is a cooperative process in which both the instructor and the student have important roles. Generally, I believe the role of a teacher is to be a facilitator or guide. A teacherís job is far more than simply conveying knowledge. Teachers should enable students to become responsible for their own learning and cultivate critical and creative thinking skills. Because people learn in different ways, I try employ a variety of teaching methods and technologies. Regardless of which method I use at a particular time, I strive to engage students in thinking about and communicating mathematics.

Every instructor has different strengths. For me, I think my greatest strengths as an educator are explaining new concepts and methods very clearly, structuring the material, and organizing each class session to enhance your understanding, involvement, and interest. I will strive to challenge you intellectually by emphasizing concepts or deeper levels of understanding. I am not a breeder of parrots! I will not just tell you what to do or how to do it, or to simply have you memorize a bunch of algorithms to repeat later on an exam. I will ask you to think and expect you to apply what you have learned!

Learning is not a passive activity. It requires energy, effort, and time. As your instructor, the best I can do is to provide an ample opportunity for learning to take place. It is up to you as the student to respond to this opportunity and consummate the learning process. Effective, active learners take responsibility for their learning. As Abraham Lincoln once said,

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.

There is no one right way to learn; there are many ways and it is important for you to explore and find ways that best serve your needs and that best enable you to develop the characteristics of effective learning. Just as you will never become an accomplished cyclist by watching the Tour de France on television, you will never acquire even the most basic mathematical skills by watching me work problems on the board. You must participate if you want to learn. It is my belief that the only way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics. While the process of reading examples in textbooks and listening to a lecture is valuable, the real learning comes through your own sustained efforts at solving mathematical problems.

Assessing student learning can be a difficult task. I will principally rely on timed examinations that will be given in class. Each exam will contain a variety of problems, some that are fairly routine in nature, others that require a deeper understanding of the concepts. Do not expect every problem to be identical to the homework. Some problems may require you to combine several ideas, or to use the concepts you have learned in a slightly new way (to assess the higher levels of learning such as application, analysis, and synthesis). It is unlikely you will do well on exams if all you do is memorize formulas or solutions to problems. Concentrate on gaining a deep understanding of the key concepts and themes, rather than relying on rote memorization of algorithms or representative problems. Also, keep in mind that I am assessing not only your ability to find the correct solution to a problem, but also the means by which you arrive at your solution and your ability to express your steps neatly, logically, and with appropriate notation. Other assessment measures may include such things as quizzes, worksheets, projects, group assignments, etc. I generally do not grade on a curve. I prefer to assess each student based on an objective standard of ability rather than relative to the ability of some other person. Here is a brief description of my grading standards:

A The student demonstrates an exceptional competence and understanding. They are able to solve most problems correctly and make at most a few careless mistakes. The student demonstrates a significant commitment to the course by completing all assignments and attending all class sessions. The student is very well prepared for a following mathematics course.
B The student demonstrates an above average competence and understanding. They are able to solve most problems correctly with one or two conceptual errors and some careless mistakes. The student demonstrates a strong commitment to the course by completing all assignments and attending nearly all class sessions.  The student is adequately to well prepared for a following mathematics course.
C The student demonstrates an average competence and understanding. They are able to solve a majority of problems correctly, and others partially with some conceptual errors and careless mistakes. The student demonstrates a reasonable commitment to the course by completing most assignments and attending most class sessions.  The student is marginally to adequately prepared for a following mathematics course.
D The student demonstrates minimal competence and understanding. They are able to solve some problems correctly, but make many mistakes and show significant gaps in their understanding of concepts. The student demonstrates a fair to reasonable commitment to the course by completing a majority of assignments and attending most class sessions.  The student is insufficiently prepared for a following mathematics course.

I want every student in my class to be successful, and I am here to help you through the learning process. I encourage you to ask questions in class, and to come by for help outside of class when you run into difficulty. Click on the Study Skills link for some specific suggestions on how to facilitate the learning process, or on the Getting Help link for a list of additional resources available to you.