SERGIO FIGUEIREDO | CLEMSON UNIVERSITY | STATEMENT OF TEACHING PHILOSOPHY “…the creative act is not performed by the artist alone;

the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and this adds his contribution to the creative act.” ~ Marcel Duchamp, “The Creative Act” I’ve always thought of teaching as a creative act where teachers and students are engaged in exploring a field of study. While a teacher presents students with theoretical and practical knowledge, it is also the teacher’s responsibility to design environments and opportunities in which students can contribute to what they are presented. The approaches and methods that teachers use to generate these environments relies on their own educational backgrounds, the institutions in which they teach, and by the departments to which they belong; but teaching in each situation is also influenced by the bodies of knowledge, set of skills, and the ways of knowing that students bring to the table. To instruct in the best capable manner, in the scene of teaching, depends on fostering the conditions for attending to each of these considerations. Regardless of specific institutions, curricula or intended outcomes, educators can employ a ‘creative-act’ teaching with the “KDM” configuration: Knowing, Doing, and Making. KNOWING This first part, knowing, relies on the ability of teachers to actively engage students. At this stage, students and teachers collaborate in learning about the material through discussion and attending to areas that invite further study. In this sense, knowing requires that the teacher provide a hospitable environment that offers students opportunities to bring their backgrounds, goals, ambitions, and abilities to bear on the course material. In addition, teacher designs activities and assignments that advance a shared foundation between students, instructor, and the larger scholarly and cultural conversations. The ‘administration of knowledge’ to students gives way to an active involvement where students are personally and professionally invested in learning, and specifically as it applies to their own interests – a key component of learning. Moreover, in order to effectively teach, the teacher must also be willing to engage with their department, college, and the various communities associated with the institution. The more a teacher can connect to and invest in each of these areas, the more he or she will be able to relate to the expectations of students and other faculty, and work toward realizing their institution’s mission. Understanding and being able to tie these expectations into students’ interests can help build an instructor’s ethos with students and the institution alike. DOING After building a foundation, teachers invite students to take part in the academic conversation within a wide range of academic discourse communities. While students may not always accept these invitations, we can present the course material in a hospitable manner to encourage students to add to these conversations through creative
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SERGIO FIGUEIREDO | CLEMSON UNIVERSITY | STATEMENT OF TEACHING PHILOSOPHY acts. By presenting course material in an appealing, accessible, and relevant manner, teachers can offer students opportunities to apply what they learn in rewarding ways – this necessitates that the teacher engages with the communities mentioned earlier. Students who are invited to take part in these conversations, in relation to their own interests, bring the material they are presented with in contact with the world outside of the classroom, which also starts them on a path to contributing their own ways of knowing to these creative acts. Creating a hospitable environment where students can discover how their interests may contribute to these academic communities opens a space where they can feel free to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes. MAKING The last element of my teaching philosophy sets the goal of education: teaching students to teach themselves. For students to become engaged and productive members of their own communities, whether in academia or elsewhere, they should be able to delineate any given situation, how they can bring their backgrounds and skill sets to bear on those situations, and how they can productively contribute to those discourse communities. To accomplish this goal, teachers need to design environments where students can learn to be critical and creative thinkers beyond their post-secondary education. By situating the classroom as beginning of student learning, we cultivate independent learners and thinkers prepared to be successful in society and life. Effectively employing these three steps can facilitate what I see as the purpose of higher education: to help students think critically so that they may be able to adjust to any given situation. As one student wrote on a course evaluation, “I have come to realize that the art of rhetoric (the main focus of the course) will benefit me no matter what career choice I make.” And commenting on my approach to teaching, another student wrote: “Sergio is a great teacher. He is able to make class fun and interesting while still getting his teaching points across and helping us learn about rhetorical tools, as well as helping us improve our writing skills.” While I am still working on ways to improve my teaching – by developing new methods, assignment, and activities – the three steps detailed above guide my thinking about pedagogical practices that will help students become critical and creative thinkers. In the creative act of teaching, improving these practices remains a perpetual process where my interaction with students entails discovering how I can best adjust to their learning styles. As such, I learn more about my approach to teaching with each new group of students. As one student explains his/her appreciation of these steps: “I like how we got to figure out a lot of things by ourselves. Yet, we always had a ‘safety net’ to fall back on...I really appreciated it.” Designing environments where students can feel free to explore ideas and concepts on their own will continue to be my goal in teaching. If teachers aspire to prepare the people who will inherit our world to think of creative solutions to the problems we all face, we need to be hospitable to students’ own ways of knowing, doing and making while being there to support them when they encounter problems. And when students present up with creative responses to our own challenges, we can return the favor and tell them: “I really appreciate it.”

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