Teaching Through Doing: 5 Questions for Arthur Hochman

By Shannon Rostin '18

Education professor Arthur Hochman, recipient of a Distinguished Faculty Award in 2015, inspires College of Education (COE) students through his shared passion of teaching, helping to shape future teachers with his unique approach to teaching and active role in student’s education. Hochman is somewhat of an icon in the College. His one-of-a-kind teaching and appreciation for his individual students is astounding and very apparent in all he does for COE. 


How would you describe elements of your teaching style? 

Connecting with students.  I want to teach to them and not at them, and that is predicated on knowing who they are, what matters to them, how they learn, etc.  Once you know students it changes everything.  I think of these relationships as ongoing.  I still feel connected to students from many, many years ago, and have continued to work with them.  They also provide a through-line for our college; for me; and for our current students. 

Teaching through doing.  You cannot learn how to swim via PowerPoint.  You have to feel the water, the uncertainty.  Through an educational lens, you need to experience what it means to be a professional, what it means to guide another, what it feels like to be the leader and the follower, and always in a real context (in our case educational contexts).  Crucial to this is being there with them in the context, and not merely sending them off into the community.

Helping others find the greatness in themselves.  The first part is to be able to see it in them, genuinely and in concrete terms.  This also involves seeing greatness in its many and varied forms, and not always in a single lane.  Knowing the answer is worth a lot, but then so is empathy, perseverance, overcoming, and so forth.  The second part is creating guided experiences so that they can find their own strength.  We might create a structured experience with 4th graders, for example, that still provides them with ample space to plan and implement in the classroom. This is like holding the bicycle at the beginning, but letting go, allowing them to feel and find their own momentum.  They see and know that they can and are peddling on their own weight.

Being in the moment.  There is the syllabus, there is the content, there are the objectives, there is the end in view; but in the meantime, there is right now. We might as well work to experience joy, create a culture of nurturance, find the greater good, and do meaningful work today.  To achieve this, I try to vary my instruction; team teach; teach new things, new courses; model; and most of all think about how to construct a learning environment that feels safe, communal, purposeful, connected, concrete, real, and successful.


What is the most rewarding part of teaching at Butler?

Getting to know the students; helping to them to find their own strength; working with colleagues (faculty, alums and educators in the field).  Being able to be student-centered at an institution that values this vision.


What makes a positive student / professor connection?

Knowing your students is the key.  You have to find and build in ways to know them beyond the syllabus.


What does COE do to set up students for a successful career in education?

 We provide the following elements in all of our programs:

A tremendous amount of guided experiences in the field. These experiences are at a wide variety of places, with a wide variety of contexts, students/clients.

A focus on conceptual learning.  Teaching specific skills, strategies, contexts, or technology limits the educator to the particular tools and ideas they happen to have and know.  Teaching them the meaning of tools or ideas; how they function, how to select or modify them- this enables a future educator to be able to use and guide others in tools and ideas that have not yet been invented.

Living our vision in our teaching and in who we are.

Being purposeful about how we think, what we say, and what we do as educators.  We practice this, we deconstruct it, we explore strategies for doing this.

Building and nurturing relationships, while they are here on campus and after they graduate.


What makes a great teacher?

Great teachers are authentic.  They are profoundly themselves.  In this way they provide a road map to identity for life and for learning. Great teachers think about how learning feels; they know their content; they know their students; they build relationships; they are intentional; they are empathetic; they teach conceptually (thinking and understanding beyond mere answers).