Jeffrey L. Finnan, Ph.D.

Philosophy of Education

Reasons for Choosing Teaching


If societal teaching needs, my commitment to community, my intrinsic needs, my background, and my capabilities are combined, teaching chemistry at the high school level is the logical outcome. Should Erikson's theory of psychosocial development hold true, then I am in that middle adulthood stage seven. Consequently, I am searching for ways to be generative to nurture and provide for the generation that follows. At the same time being at pinnacle of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, I am entering the teaching profession as a great way to fulfill my need for self-actualization while serving greater societal good. Besides, it is time for me to pay back. I was lucky to have my reading disability caught and attended to in the middle elementary grades. Additionally, there have been teachers all along who have known that my capabilities stretched much further than paper evaluations might have shown.

Background and Capabilities

From my undergraduate days when I would take part in peer tutoring, my fellow peer tutors would at times be mesmerized by my explanations of whatever the chemical issue was at hand. Throughout my career as a corporate research and development scientist and manager, I have had opportunities to train people as well as be a facilitator in quality management programs. Those occasions have always been enjoyable. Feedback was always very positive. Over the last few years, I have been very involved with online tutoring in chemistry. In that endeavor, I love the challenge of trying to figure out how to get the student to determine the answers on their own. That challenge is made particularly tough given that this has been through two-dimensional message boards where one can only use type-written messages to get the concept across. Again, feedback has always been positive. Having a Ph.D. in chemistry makes the choice of teaching high school chemistry an easy one. I am a master of the discipline itself with twenty years in the working world. With high school students soon to enter college or the working world, I can offer insight and relate my experiences to their futures. Therefore, teaching science, particularly chemistry, at the high school level is the logical choice.

Theoretical Orientation

My theoretical orientation toward teaching will lean toward what might be called didactic constructivism with bits and pieces of other approaches thrown in. Didactic constructivism may seem oxymoronic, but I view it as a teaching approach of hand-in-hand complementary concepts.


Didactic, teacher-centered instruction can be fraught with dangers such as teacher dominance and student passivity, but it still does have a major place in the classroom through recitations and discussions. It offers a number of useful functions. One can assess comprehension of reading and checking background knowledge. Careful posing of intellectually demanding queries can foster critical thinking. Students can be drawn into any discussions through requests for the students to provide information. Recitation and discussion allows for individual interaction with students in the midst of a whole-group lesson. Finally, with skillful use of inquiry and changes in posturing and voice, one can maintain a high attention level. My interaction with the class and individuals will allow for determining where the zones of proximal development exist for the class as a whole as well as for individuals. This will allow for determining how much additional up-front support is needed and how far the students can be stretched.


How can one not incorporate the use of constructivist approaches to teaching science? The three-word summary of Piaget's theory is "child as scientist." I would like to think that there is still much of that child in me. Ways will have to be incorporated to allow students discover and develop concepts on their own. However, it would be impossible for students to reconstruct that last couple hundred years of chemistry discovery in the classroom. That is where the didactic approach comes in as a complement.