My teaching philosophy is based on the idea that in order for students to understand the present, they must also understand the past. Because new technology is being created constantly, it is important for students to be aware of what has been influential. As a filmmaker, it is also my belief that in order for students to fully understand how to create something, they must create it on their own, outside of the classroom.
Learning from Each Other:
Class discussions are frequent and encouraged. In FILM2300: Film Appreciation thought at the University of Central Arkansas, students are regularly asked to watch a film and come to class ready to discuss. Because students constantly need reminders about the past, a film poster helps to remind students about certain sections of the film and also provides historical context, depending on the artwork. Students talk to me and to each other, creating a conversation in the classroom, discussing their own thoughts, ideas, and learning from each other. As a future mass media instructor, this same style of teaching can transfer over to other media classes. To better understand my students, I openly discuss their favorite films, learning their interests and hobbies. This helps to discover the knowledge that each student already has on certain subjects and topics.
Many of my students come into class with little to no knowledge on the topics that we plan to cover. How I help students understand a topic better is to show them the finished product first and then explain how it was created. In other words, learn backwards. For example, FILM2300: Film Appreciation students are non-film majors. Because of this, many students are not familiar with the production process of filmmaking or what takes place in each step. One of the ways I help students understand how films are made, is to do “preproduction backwards.” Students are given a photoboard/storyboard assignment and they are asked to find an opening sequence from a film that has already been distributed and take pictures of, or draw, that opening sequence. This assignment helps students to understand the rigorous work that takes place in all stages of production.
The Real World:
While students are told how preproduction, production, and postproduction work, they will better understand the organization process when doing the steps for themselves. For example, students are assigned to groups and given a film scene shot-for-shot remake project. This allows students to apply what they have learned in class to their projects outside of class. In class, students learn what a high angle shot is, but they must now create this on their own. This same idea applies to mass media classes as well. If there is a nearby film festival taking place that semester, students will be asked to go to that festival. This allows students to see what current (and many times local) filmmakers are creating. Because many of the filmmakers at these festivals are local, students are able to have conversations with them and ask questions. Going to a film festival shows students that short films are still being produced and that blockbuster films are not the only ones around in modern filmmaking. This same concept can and should be used in mass media classes. Introducing students to other professionals in the field, provides them with experiences and stories that will help them further understand their chosen field of media.
In my film classes, I provide students with more than just the basic knowledge of filmmaking and its history. Students leave the classroom with an understanding that more takes place in film production than just shooting the movie. They understand the history, its key events, and people. They get a better understanding of pre and post production, as well as distribution, and they have their own experiences recreating a short scene. From student evaluations to comments in class, students have said they had no idea that learning about filmmaking would be as interesting and as fun as it was. Some students even came into class for the first time, saying that they had no interest in films, but as the semester continued they discovered that they actually enjoyed the learning process. There is no greater feeling than when the student that initially said they didn’t like films, now plans to watch more of Buster Keaton.