Associate Professor of Criminal Justice
Associate Editor at the Journal of Criminal Justice and Law
Richard J. Stringer, Ph.D.
Philosophy of Teaching
"The value in education is not in the learning of facts but the training of the mind to think” (Albert Einstein). As educators, we have a duty to train students to think critically, and this is not accomplished through memorization and regurgitation of textbook material. Therefore, my philosophy revolves around guiding students through the course material as a mentor and allowing them to develop critical thinking. This goal is achieved through writing and revising a major analytical paper, an ongoing peer review process, as well as classroom discussions.
First, all of my courses incorporate a written analytical essay that utilizes “scaffolding”, which requires students to turn in various portions of the final paper throughout the semester. Students are given several assignments throughout the semester that contribute to the final paper at the end of the semester. For example, assignments throughout the semester will ask students to acquire credible academic sources on that topic, synthesize them into a literature review, and write conclusions. In research methods, students learn to develop hypotheses, write up methods and findings, and analyze data. This process leads vast improvement in the quality of student papers and grades.
Second, reflection and evaluation is accomplished through a peer review process that occurs throughout the semester. Allowing students to give and receive feedback contributes to their intellectual development. In fact, pedagogical research indicates that students learn more from evaluating others work than from completing their own work. The process mirrors the blind review process of journal submission in that the reviewer is required to write up a review of the paper and the author must address the critiques and write a response to the review. I find this process highly beneficial to reflection and intellectual growth.
Finally, classroom discussion is used to stimulate the thought process and increase exposure to diverse opinions. In previous coursed, this has led to several discussions on issues such as the police use of force, gun control, and marijuana legalization. Broadening students minds to alternative viewpoints is often conducive to the realization that issues are more complicated than originally thought. I use a quasi-Socratic method of instruction that allows for some lecture and also some query of the students to facilitate the operation of their own analytical faculties. The process moves students from passive learning into active learning and stimulates the problem solving parts of their brain. By asking the class questions about the material (e.g. When should the police allowed to use force?), students are actively thinking as they search for answers, even if they do not know it.
In conclusion, regardless of their chosen profession, after graduation students will have to think critically in order to solve problems and communicate effectively in order to be successful. There is no textbook from which to memorize the answers for the test of life, and in many cases graduates may be forced to use their best judgment and defend it to critics. Thus, critical thought and an ability to articulate those thoughts orally and in writing will be valuable tools for success.