Miriam Ben-Yoseph, associate professor, School for New Learning, teaches courses in culture, gender, and work. Her current focus is the transformation of the American workplace in response to technology, globalization, and demographic diversity. In 2006, Ben-Yoseph was named the Illinois Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Here she talk about her work at DePaul.
"I like everything about teaching adults.
"They contribute remarkable energy to the classroom dynamic. With adult students, change is always on the horizon, and that creates a buzz. Maybe they’re switching careers or need credentials; perhaps they’re going to graduate school and need to complete a prerequisite. Some have simply fallen in love with learning. But each has made a real commitment to come to class, and that commitment is palpable. A teacher certainly can’t take them for granted.
"If I had to define my philosophy of teaching, I’d say I hold these principles.
"One, learning is collaborative: students learn from the teacher and from each other; the teacher learns from the students. This is particularly true with adult students since they bring so many rich and varied life experiences into the classroom. Education should be as interactive as possible.
"Two, class work needs to be engaging. Most adult students come to class after spending all day at work. In addition to job responsibilities, they also have families and other obligations. If a class isn’t relevant and meaningful, why would they return?
"Three, questions are more important than answers, not only because questions lead to continued inquiry but also because they connect students and teachers as learners. In this rapidly changing environment driven by globalization, emerging technologies, and shifting demographics, it is even more important for teachers to show a willingness and readiness to learn. Increasingly, our students become our teachers, and our ability to learn is at least as important as our ability to teach.
"Four, education is personal. I always try to get to know my students. In the context of the classes I teach, I want to know: What are they curious about? What are their aspirations? What do they want to learn? What real life problems are they trying to solve? What are the most appropriate approaches to address these questions? How do we begin?
"Five, story-telling is a great way to teach and learn because it engages not only the mind but also the heart. Discussing short stories, critical incidents, and cases enables me to create a hospitable learning environment where students feel safe to share their own stories, include their experiences as ‘text,’ and connect with the material we are covering and with others in the class.
"In the School of New Learning, I’ve always felt encouraged to explore and improve the many facets of my teaching. DePaul is a good fit for someone like me — not just because of the university’s high academic standards and achievements, but also because diversity and respect for each person’s individuality are important, because collaborative learning is encouraged, and because the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the classroom and beyond."
Originally from Romania, Ben-Yoseph received her B.A and M.A. degrees from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and her Ph.D. in French literature from Northwestern University. Before joining DePaul in 1991, she was a vice president in market research and training at Continental Bank. She says, “The multiple strands that have made up my life and career bridge the gap between the academy, the workplace, and life in general."