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Teaching Statement

In my courses, I move toward facilitating open inquiry-based, student-centered projects.  These projects incorporate research and writing into an overall project that a student pursues as the culmination of their work in a given semester. 

As a teacher and adviser, I ask myself, “What can I do to facilitate an individual’s ability to make a substantial, distinctive contribution?”  If I can help facilitate a student’s realization of him- or herself as an outstanding individual who may make a substantial, valuable, distinctive contribution -- then I feel a great deal of satisfaction. 

I find that taking a student-centered, inquiry-based approach to student research, writing, and media projects proves successful.  As I tell students,

If you ask the research question or pose the problem to be solved, you will find that your writing and critical thinking skills may develop light years ahead of where they would be otherwise.  Because the source of the project is you yourself, an automatic self-adjustment may take place for you in regard to the work you are about to tackle.  In so doing, whether you are aware of it or not, you may self-position your ability, desire, and openness to knowledge toward something that is or may be distinctive – possibly a writing project that could not have been written by anyone else in the world but you.  (Bennett-Carpenter, 2012, pp. 49-50)

I adopt, then, any method or strategy, within reason, that works to facilitate a student’s success.  Thus, I employ various approaches from time to time.  These include attention to learning styles, discussion and seminar-style formats, brief lecture formats, problem-based projects, case studies, experiential and community-based learning, and the employment of various media environments (Nilson 1998), including online venues.  In short, I am a romanticist when it comes to my belief in the immense potential of every student.  Meanwhile, I am pragmatic about a student's real learning situation and what particular steps need to be taken to facilitate his or her advance.

A challenging, hospitable learning environment for students is my goal.  This environment, beyond the basic issue of physical and/or virtual space, is the totality of specific resources that may be drawn upon for advancing one’s abilities as a learner.  For me these resources include high quality, diverse readings and reference sources as both case studies in what one produces and, also, in introducing students to the conversations and debates that take place in the disciplines.  In terminology specific to teaching rhetoric, I take up the concerns of both argumentation and cultural studies within an approach of conversing across academic communities (cf. Fulkerson 2005) -- and, to some extent, within civic, media, and professional circles.  In ideal situations, the learning environment may extend well beyond the classroom to community- and field-based experiences.  For me, the learning environment also includes small group and especially one-to-one time in which trouble-shooting can take place on individual student research, writing, and media projects.  Often these times prove a fast track to specific learning goals and outcomes.

Finally, while much more could be mentioned, I seek to create a climate with my students that is highly challenging on the one hand, and open, friendly, and encouraging on the other.  Given the opportunity, I look to recruit and facilitate individuals with outstanding ability and the potential to make a distinctive contribution to their area of study and/or practice.

--Benjamin Bennett-Carpenter, 2005-2017