Teaching Philosophy

Faculty in the Doctoral Program believe in lifelong learning and that we are all learners and teachers. Core values include encouraging a spirit of inquiry through the construction of true dialogue, learning in community with others, and developing mindfulness through seeking truth. Thus, education is both interpretive and associative; more about process than product (Palmer, 1998). It is about respecting and caring for the very souls of one another so that we can provide the conditions for learning to “most deeply and intimately begin” (hooks, 1994, p. 13).

“To teach is not to transfer knowledge but to create the possibilities for the production or construction of knowledge” (Freire, 1998, p. 30). Faculty endeavor to create those possibilities by fostering an open atmosphere that encourages inquiry, discussion, and dialogue with others. This entails encouraging three kinds of thinking: critical, creative and dialogical. Critical thinking refers to evaluating the rationale of an argument or stance on an issue (Davis & Davis, 2000) by questioning the assumptions behind it (Brookfield, 1995). Creative thinking is the kind of thinking that breaks rules and usually results in creative products, services, inventions, or processes (Davis & Davis, 2000). Dialogical thinking involves being able to see things from different points of view and understanding another point of view and not suppressing it even if it is a dissenting viewpoint or one oppositional to your own (Davis & Davis). By constructing the conditions for true dialogue to emerge, unseen thinking patterns are revealed (Ellinor & Gerard, 1998), ideas are tested, and learners are drawn to reflect upon their beliefs and convictions. A “communal effort to stretch each other and make better sense of the world” unfolds (Palmer, 1998, p. 103).

A majority of the students in the doctoral program are working adults. As such, they bring with them a diversity of professional and cultural backgrounds. The Doctoral Program seeks to engage this diversity through the creation of a dynamic community of learners. Parker Palmer (1998) described teachers and learners together trying to understand the subject (in this case, leadership) in a “community of truth.” Such a community is circular, interactive, and dynamic. “Truth” is the passionate and disciplined process of inquiry and dialogue itself; the dynamic conversation of a community that keeps testing old conclusions and coming to new ones (Palmer). In the context of the Doctoral Program, “leadership” becomes the subject at the center of our attention “that continually calls us deeper into its secret, a subject that refuses to be reduced to our conclusions about it” (p. 105). Together, we help each other to “think in a circular fashion, in spirals, to note patterns and to be continuously willing to expand the depth and breadth” of the subject (Feige, 1999, p. 85).

Within the community of learners, individual learners are challenged to be mindful learners by developing their own habits of truth. Mindfulness refers to the continuous creation of new categories, openness to new information, and a conscious awareness of more than one perspective (Langer, 1997). This calls each of us to be continuous learners by developing a habit of mind that challenges oneself to purposely learn in new realms, take risks, and accept a degree of internal dissonance as part of the learning process (Taylor, Marienau, & Fiddler, 2000). A restless curiosity is encouraged, a curiosity that draws us to search and re-search to discover “what I do not yet know and to communicate and proclaim what I discover” (Freire, 1998, p. 35). Freire describes such a curiosity as “restless questioning, as movement toward the revelation of something hidden, as a question verbalized or not, as search for clarity, as a moment of attention, suggestion, and vigilance” (pp. 37-38). Rather than taking us to answers, the process may take us to more useful questions (Feige, 1999) that we then may have to learn to live before the answers reveal themselves (Rilke, 1934).

Doctoral level education is about developing breadth and depth in the field. The program curriculum is designed to provide breadth in the field of leadership. By taking different classes in the program curriculum, students are broadly exposed to the field of leadership studies. Each class provides a different lens through which to examine the subject of leadership. The liberal arts lend themselves particularly well to a broad exploration of leadership. The different fields in the liberal arts can be seen as different paths towards knowledge, each providing a different way to think about leadership through insights gained by voyaging into other disciplines. Depth comes through using electives, individualized studies, the candidacy process, and the dissertation to delve more deeply into a particular aspect of leadership that is intriguing to the student.

People have been interested in the phenomenon of leadership for centuries, and have defined and explored it in numerous ways for an abundance of reasons. Due to this complexity, the inherent interdisciplinary nature of leadership has come to the fore in the present scholarly dialogue. Northouse (2001) contended that there are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there are people who have tried to define it, and as such, it is much like the words democracy, love, and peace. From this perspective, leadership becomes a gathering place for all disciplines, helping to form more meaningful understandings of human experience.

Students are simultaneously supported and challenged in the Program. While the faculty strive to meet students where they are at, the faculty also challenge them to, in the words of Taylor, Marienau, and Fiddler (2000) “stretch beyond what is currently familiar and comfortable in order to achieve some new level of competence” (p. 326) or understanding. As faculty, we embrace the arguments of Daloz (1999), hooks (1994), and Tisdell (2003) that our job is not merely to transmit information but to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of one another. The Jesuit tradition of caring for the whole person mind, body, and spirit compels us to see others as whole human beings with complex lives and experiences. Hence, the teaching of the content is not separate from the formation of the learner. Students arrive in the program with multiple levels of understanding and will leave the program with what Bateson (1999) described as multiple levels of understanding. However, it is the faculty's hope that as a result of having spent time in the Doctoral Program, students will have experienced growth towards more complex ways of knowing and deeper, more reflective understandings of themselves and others (Taylor, Marienau, & Fiddler). Ultimately, faculty look to engage students’ passions, activating energy to effect personal, community, organizational, and world change for the better. Learning is a lifelong process. As the subject of leadership calls us deeper into its secret, promoting a restless curiosity that is “critical, bold, and adventurous” (Freire, 1998, p. 38) we recognize that “whoever teaches learns in the act of teaching, and whoever learns teaches in the act of learning” (p. 31).

References (not completed)

Bateson, M. C. (1999). In praise of ambiguity. In Kane, J. (Ed.), Education, information and transformation (pp. 133-146). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Daloz, L. A. (1999). Mentor: Guiding the journey of adult learners (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Davis, J. R. & Davis, A. B. (2000). Managing your own learning. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Ellinor, L. & Gerard, G. (1998). Dialogue: Rediscover the transforming power of conversation. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Feige, D. M. (1999). The legacy of Gregory Bateson: Envisioning aesthetic epistemologies and praxis. In Kane, J. (Ed.), Education, information and transformation (pp. 77-109). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Freire, P. (1998). Pedagogy of freedom. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York: Routledge.

Langer, E. J. (1997). The power of mindful learning. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Palmer, P. (1971). To know as we are known. San Francisco: Harper Rowe.

Palmer, P. (1991). The active life: A spirituality of work, creativity, and caring. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Palmer, P. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher's life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Palmer, P. (2000). Let your life speak: Listening for the voice of vocation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Rilke, R. M. (1934). Letters to a young poet. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Taylor, K., Marienau, C., & Fiddler, M. (2000). Developing adult learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tisdell, E. J. (2003). Exploring spirituality and culture in adult and higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

All Are Welcome Here
All Are Welcome Here