Some professors–particularly where the subject is open to interpretation like philosophy, humanities, ethics, or literature–push their views onto students. I’ve also read that doing so helps the students to think for themselves because if the teachers pushes a viewpoint that the student disagrees with, then this forces the student to think.
Perhaps I’m the minority and but I don’t like that type of teaching. The problem with that is what if the students agree with the teacher? Then the students aren’t thinking, they’re just agreeing with a teacher. That’s not learning!
When I teach philosophy for example, I explain what a particular philosopher said and then I defend it in class because I know there’s bound to be some students that will disagree with the philosopher. So everyday, I’m defending a new position because each new philosopher has something different to say.
In ethics, I’m more critical. I start off by explaining what the article is about, then I open it to the floor and let the students discuss whether the ideas in the article has merit. It can get to really interesting discussions because there’s bound to be disagreements. On those rare occasions where everyone agrees (or disagrees) with the article, I spice it up by playing Devil’s Advocate and it makes them think.
It’s funny because I’ve had many students come up to me at the end of the semester and they thought that I was biased towards a pro-choice position on abortion (we usually start off with a pro-choice article) and then the next day, we read a pro-life position and I defend that (or at least explain what the author’s getting at).
To me, the best teacher isn’t one pushing his/her philosophical or ethical ideas onto the students. The best teacher is one who explains the ideas, let’s the students figure out what they believe themselves, and the teacher’s role from there is to push the students into why they have these beliefs. The teacher should start off as non-biased. Is it hard to do? Yes! There have been times where I really wanted to say why this article is wrong, but I try my hardest not to let my bias show. I don’t know if it’s successful or not, but I believe that is the best teaching method.
I’ve had both types of teachers. One of my teachers was teaching religion and he definitely had an agenda which made the class miserable. My other teacher who teaches religion and theology took the non-biased approach and for the longest time, I thought he was an atheist (or at least an agnostic). It turns out he was a believer. I was amazed at that teaching skill! He made me think more about religion and theology than anyone and I really worked hard on my religion papers as an undergrad.
To me, a non-pushing agenda teaching method is the best. However, I’m sure some of you had the other kind. Which type of teaching did you like best? Which made you learn more?