Like most leadership experts, I cannot begin to discuss my leadership philosophy without addressing the concept of Situational Leadership. I believe that the best leaders have multiple leadership styles in their "toolbox," and they use them in accordance with the situation. Therefore, I consider my leadership philosophy to be alive and constantly changing as circumstances dictate. Listed below are the leadership styles that I gravitate toward the most, despite having numerous methods in my own toolbox.
In my opinion, the purpose of a leader is to serve others, be it as a director of a non-profit organization, a CEO of a for-profit business, a politician, or any of the several leadership roles within society. At the core of leadership, is the responsibility to ensure that the needs of those being lead are met. This is paramount to my preferred model of leadership because I believe a leader can only succeed if those below her succeed as well. Servant leaders are typically drawn to communities and organizations that put people first, and I am no exception.
Leader-Member Exchange Theory (LMX)
The LMX theory hypothesizes that the quality of exchanges (interactions) a leader develops with her subordinates will directly affect the leader/follower relationship. When used in a positive manner, a leader can develop a strong people-first approach that enhances relationships, resulting in higher follower productivity and satisfaction. Considering servant leaders are very people oriented, knowledge of this model is extremely helpful in analyzing interactions with followers. Servant leaders, however, must be careful not fo fall into the inner- and outer-circle paradox where the types of relationships they form exclude a group of followers, which will result in lower productivity and satisfaction.
I am a strong proponent of the LMX Theory and encourage all people-oriented leaders to familiarize themselves with it. Through trial and error, I have worked to overcome the inner- and outer-circle paradox, and to be able to identify it through observation of other leaders. If a servant leader believes he is not reaching a subset of his followers, I recommend having an expert shadow them for a few days to identify if this might be the cause.
I began developing my teaching philosophy during the fall of 2010 when I started teaching business courses at the community college level. I was a bit naïve, thinking that teaching was only about presenting information for students to learn, but I quickly realized that there was so much more involved. After that first term of teaching, I knew I needed to be more effective at learning-transfer, so I began reading every piece of literature about the subject I could locate. I decided that the best way to become a better educator was to pursue formal training in education. The opportunity to do this presented itself in 2012, when my family moved to the Charleston, West Virginia area, and I decided to pursue my doctorate in education from Marshall University.
My teaching philosophy consists of two parts: course alignment and learning themes. The first part consists of my beliefs that proper course alignment is the cornerstone for successful teaching. The second part is about the core learning themes that are part of every course.
When I am asked to teach a new course, my first question is, “Are the course objectives already defined?” The reasoning behind this is to ascertain whether the course is already aligned to a program’s overall goals. If the answer to the question is yes, then I can immediately begin developing assignment objectives to support the vision of the course. If the answer to the question is no, then my first task is to properly align the course to the program goals. In order for students to be successful and make cognitive connections among classes, each course must clearly identify 1) what students will learn and 2) how this learning is intertwined with the larger picture.
Once course and assignment objectives are defined, I can move onto the implementation of goals phase of my philosophy. Working directly from the objectives, I can craft learner-centered and project-focused assignments. I started using these types of assignments because of the compelling arguments found in the literature. I continued using these types of assignments because they worked! I discovered that students did not just learn, but also comprehended as evidenced by their ability to apply the material to complex, real-world situations. I could literally see them making connections across the program and across the institution’s curriculum.
Even though I saw the changes in student outcomes, I wanted more than anecdotal evidence to determine how a course is working; therefore, I developed a third piece of my teaching philosophy, the evaluation of goals. Following training evaluation guidelines from Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick, I developed rubrics for each of the key assignments in a course to measure reaction, learning, and behavior. These rubrics are used together to paint a picture of an overall course's results by statistically analyzing the data using SPSS. This allows me to determine if I am teaching what I intended and where any weak links may be in the course/program/teaching style. Once I have the analyzed data, it is a matter of making the necessary adjustments.
The previous part of my teaching philosophy is very process-oriented, but I do not want to convey that I follow a teaching formula. On the contrary, I consider every course to be different; an opportunity to tackle issues beyond the prescribed course description. These issues consist of “themes” that every instructor may choose to incorporate into each course. The two themes that I choose to focus on the most are diversity and information literacy.
As instructors, we have a duty to be on the lookout for ways to incorporate diversity into the classroom, both face-to-face and online. Since the majority of my tenure as an educator has been in the Appalachian region, I have found creative ways of bringing diversity into the classroom. I always have at least one intercultural assignment that forces students outside of their comfort zone. Most recently, I developed an assignment based upon the “Judging America” photo series. Through properly staging the assignment, students confronted their own biases and developed thought-points for identifying stereotypical thinking.
My other theme, information literacy, is required to conduct a proper investigation into any topic. I created a digital literacy worksheet to guide students through Cornell University’s Digital Literacy Resource, and an APA worksheet guiding students through the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s website to help students learn proper American Psychological Association citation guidelines. In addition, I have a tool box of assignments to use as needed to incorporate different aspects of information literacy.
There are other themes that I often incorporate into my courses, including metacognitive thinking, inquiry-based research, and integrative thinking; however, diversity and information literacy are the foundation that the other themes are built upon.
My teaching philosophy has developed as I have gained more knowledge about education through formal training and from practical teaching experiences at the undergraduate and graduate levels. I consider this philosophy a living viewpoint because it is constantly evolving based upon new research and new experiences.