Statement of Teaching Philosophy
Written for Lipscomb University on December 14, 2015
I am committed to align my career with Lipscomb’s mission to "integrate Christian faith and practice with academic excellence. " This starts with my personal life, and I am committed to practice my Christian walk with a family of believers. I was raised at Hillsboro Church of Christ and am blessed to have returned there as an adult with my family.
My commitment extends to my vocation where I aspire to integrate my Christian faith with my practice as an engineer. I believe in the honor of helping humanity through the practice of engineering, the virtue of lifelong learning, and the goodness of personal relationships. When I first walked into Olmsted Hall at the University of Evansville in 2009, I noticed the stone engraving of a wonderful verse from the book of Philippians: "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report... think on these things. " To me, this applies to a liberal arts education in general as well as an engineering education in specific. As engineer/historian Henry Petroski states, engineering "is about changing the world, about designing and making new things that work... engineering plays [a role] in creating and maintaining an innovative society. " These are good and pure things!
God has given us a world that makes rational sense and an ability to study it and work it to create new things. Our current culture struggles to justify a liberal arts education against direct job training in the STEM disciplines. I believe that Lipscomb University is in the unique position to address this challenge; For the Christian understands the purpose of knowledge:
"In the midst of the knowledge explosion of the past half century, it is astounding how many have forgotten that the greatest knowledge they could possess is the knowledge of God. Suppose inhabitants of other planets were discovered; this would not be as great as knowing about the one who inhabits heaven. The fact that we have sent man to the moon is not so amazing as sending men to heaven. The knowledge of God is certainly top priority. "
… as well as the purpose of a professional program such as engineering:
"Christianity was never intended to replace or supersede the ordinary human arts and sciences: it is rather a director which will set them all to the right jobs, and a source of energy which will give them all new life, if only they will put themselves at its disposal. "
I aspire to challenge my students to see their engineering education beyond a shallow calling to invent the next big thing or to make a lot of money. I want to motivate my students to participate in our callings as human beings and to explore the world around us that was originally "good". An engineering student does not need to feel conflict between their career and spiritual calling. We can serve Him right where we are, using the talents He saw fit to bestow us.
Furthermore, I am committed to integrate Lipscomb’s Christian calling with academic excellence. Research in psychology, cognitive science, and engineering education has provided a wealth of insight into how students learn best. These are exciting times to be an engineering educator! I view it as my ethical responsibility as a teacher to learn about these best practices and apply them to my classes.
Academic excellence today extends far beyond the mere transfer of information from teacher to student. So what does it mean for me to teach the practice of engineering in a world where just about anything can be found with a Google search? Academic excellence should stress not only knowledge but also the reasoning skills needed to use that knowledge effectively. I must remember first of all the practical needs of industry as well as the vast environmental and human challenges awaiting engineers of the future. As was mentioned in a recent Mechanical Engineering magazine article, "Few industrial engineering positions require the technical rigor required in the undergraduate curriculum. Many engineers will independently solve neither a calculus nor differential equation while working in industry ." With this in mind, I believe my top priority is to challenge and inspire my students into deep, critical thinking.
This is the main benefit of an education in a physically present learning community versus an online web-presence. I can provide my students with individualized mentorship and hands-on practice. With carefully crafted active learning situations, I can help students to perceive and understand the world around them from the vantage point of a Christian engineer. The scientist-turned-philosopher Michael Polanyi called this "elbow knowledge" or the knowledge that is best gained when working closely beside a teacher . I look forward to working alongside my students in an environment that seeks to teach, shape, and send them into the world in the image of Jesus Christ.
"Mission", Lipscomb University,, Accessed 12/14/2015.
The Bible, King James Version, Philippians 4:8
Henry Petroski, "Thinking Science: Policymakers lose sight of engineering’s importance," ASEE Prism Magazine, September 2009.
Ryrie, Charles C. A Survey of Bible Doctrine. Moody Publishers, 1989.
Lewis, Clive Staples. Mere Christianity. Zondervan, 2001.
Donald Rorrer, "Hiring the Newly Minted," Mechanical Engineering, March 2011.
Ken Myers, "Tacit Knowing, Truthful Knowing: The Life and Thought of Michael Polanyi," A Mars Hill Audio Report, Web, 24 Sept 2012.