My teaching is being evaluated this term so naturally I have to write a narrative about my teaching philosophy. After some thought, here is what rolled off my keyboard late last night (no, it's not a joke):
As an undergraduate in the late 1960s I became enamored with the educational dictum, ‘crap detection’, promulgated by Neil Postman. Although I had not yet decided to be an educator, I decided that if I did, I would focus on teaching my students to be crap detectors, which these days, is known as ‘critical thinking’. I have tried to instill that concept in my students, along with another one: ethical behavior. If you add to these two an emphasis on fundamentals and altruism, you have my philosophical principles: (1) fundamentals; (2) altruism; (3) crap detection; and (4) ethics. The mnemonic is ‘FACE’.
Prior to OSU most of my teaching at the Universities of Nevada-Reno and New Mexico was in the sciences and engineering: hydrogeology; physical hydrology, groundwater hydraulics, environmental science, geological and environmental fluid mechanics, subsurface contaminant fate and transport, etc. It was relatively easy to follow principles (1) and (3), and (2) and (4) were generally not very relevant. In the mid-1990s I added policy and management courses to that mix and now, I teach P&M courses almost exclusively. In P&M courses I have found it more challenging to define (1) and (3), whereas (2) and (4) are generally more relevant than in the S&E courses. That’s what makes teaching P&M courses more fascinating; they really force me to stretch myself.
In all my courses I like to use case studies, especially those in which I have participated. Students tend to like ‘real-world’ examples.
So that's about it.
I do miss teaching the quantitative stuff, so next year I will teach a 4XX/5XX (UG/G) course in Hydrogeography, a course in physical hydrology for non-engineers. It will be a version of a course I developed and taught at UN-Reno and UC-Santa Cruz I called Hydrologic Fluid Dynamics. I used Larry Dingman's excellent Fluvial Hydrology, long since out-of-print. It's the best water book I have. Full of information, it is designed to teach fluid mechanics to Earth scientists. It was ahead of its time (1984), which is probably why it went out of print so quickly. He has since written another great book, Physical Hydrology.
But I am enjoying teaching Water
Resources Management in the US this term:
Twenty sharp undergraduates keeping me on my toes.
And after class today, I set an enthusiastic undergraduate straight on ecohydrology, which he had never heard of, as a field for graduate study. I also gave him some schools and professors' names (Desiree, Mark, John, and Bill - get ready!).
And after that, one of my GEO 425 undergrads came in to talk about doing a Bachelor's thesis (Environmental Science) on aspects of Canada's First Nations. He left my office with a thesis advisor.
Doesn't get much better than today. I am even looking forward to reviewing our college's draft strategic plan tonight!
And watch out for crap. I've heard it's all over the Internet.
"I want to remind you that murder for murder, General Westmoreland makes Vito Genovese look like a Flower Child...Another way of saying this is that all ideologies are saturated with bullshit, and a wise man will observe Herbert Read’s advice: 'Never trust any group larger than a squad.' " - Neil Postman