Lecture or discussion? PowerPoints or handouts? Long readings and problem assignments or little out-of-class work? Tests or papers? Engaging or aloof? Stationary or moving around the room?
College professors run the gamut of teaching styles, some more effective than others. As a result, throughout their college years, students encounter many different approaches to learning.
Yet what works best for one student may not work at all for another. Some students may relate to a particular professor’s teaching style, while others struggle to comprehend.
So what does constitute a good learning situation in the classroom? As noted above, it all depends on the students’ learning styles.
Here are several examples of varied teaching styles of faculty at MCC and how each approaches his or her subject matter.
Amber Kumpf: Geology
Geology instructor Amber Kumpf teaches with a mix of passion, humor and
“My approach to teaching would be best described by saying that I’m always
trying to tweak things to make them better and improve upon what I’ve done before,”
said Kumpf. “ I like to experiment… I’m a scientist after all. I put a lot of thought into
what I do and how things are planned out, but I’m always thinking of things to try and
Kumpf’s love of teaching is obvious in her enthusiasm when explaining naturally
“I am fascinated with being able to learn things about places and times we can’t
study directly,” she said, “so studying mantle convection was particularly compelling to
me. It’s waaaay to deep for humans to drill there and even volcanoes don’t sample that
deep). Some of the large igneous provinces that result from mantle convection are
volcanoes the size of California or even larger! There aren’t currently erupting
volcanoes that large, so it’s interesting to try and solve some of the mysteries
surrounding the detail of their formation in the past and try to figure out if they could
form again in the future and what the consequences would be for that kind of an
While some may think that geology is a tough subject, Kumpf more than makes
up for that by always being there for students who need to stay after and ask questions.
She answers emails in a timely manner, and uses funny examples to embed information
into student’s minds.
“For college success in general, I try to emphasize my open door policy and
encourage students to talk to me about their college plans — not just for
geology/geology majors, but any subject/anyone,” said Kumpf. “I try to tell students
about some of the mistakes I’ve made, bumbling along, fake-it- till-you- make-it style, as
a first generation college student myself so that they might avoid those mistakes and
learn from what I’ve done.”
– Amy Huber
Tom Harryman: Theater
combination of animation, humor, and accessibility.
His teaching style works because he engages students in the subject.
“I also try to relate these subjects to their everyday lives on a level they can
appreciate,” he said. “The great thing about my field is that it relates to the human
condition in many ways. I also teach job-related skills to young actors and technicians.”
Harryman also still acts in MCC play. A few years ago he played the lead role of
Willy Lohman in “Death of a Salesman.” More recently in this semester’s “The Taming
of the Shrew,” he played the comic role of Grumio, a servant and the fool of the play.
“Theatre has been my business since 1973,” said Harryman. “I have worked as
an actor, technician, designer, company manager, technical director, stage manager,
managing director, and producing director.” And he remains active in the field outside of
Harryman actually began his teaching career later on in life. After returning to
Muskegon to become the managing director of the Frauenthal Theater, he also spent a
summer back in the theater again as he managed the Howmet Playhouse in Whitehall,
where he directed, designed, produced, performed and managed both the playhouse
and its popular theater company. In 2008 he became a full-time faculty member at MCC
where he teaches a variety of theater courses.
“My methods change given the field of study and the amount and interest of the
students,” said Harryman. “Some classes require a higher level of lectures, questions,
and responses, while some require a greater level of hands-on activities and
performance. Some classes require very physical involvement while some are more
reflective. I try to keep things active in all those levels.”
Harryman’s advice for students: “Let college change you. If you leave MCC the
same way you came in, one of or both of us haven’t done our jobs.”
– Amy Huber
Karin Burrell : Math
“I ask a lot of my students in terms of homework and participation,” she said. “In my
mind, one of the most important parts of my job is to try to inspire students to make connections
and to think about why things are working as they are.”
A unique feature to her style is that she splits the class in groups to solve challenging
problems from time to time. The students then show the results to each other to learn from their
“I try to learn names quickly,” she said, “and I want students to know that I care about
them. I encourage students to come see me during office hours and to email questions any time. I
try to structure my classes in a way that encourages hard work and good organizational practices,
as well as logical and critical thinking skills. These are traits that will be beneficial in future
classes and employment.”
Her advice to students is straightforward:
“Work hard at keeping up and at understanding deeply what you're learning,” she said.
“Make flashcards to drill yourself regularly on all new ideas and vocabulary. Get help as soon as
you need it. Put your phones away for awhile, and let your mind completely focus on what you're
learning and practicing.”
She has been teaching math for 20 years, starting at MCC in 2009. She also taught part-
time at Western Michigan University and Grand Rapids Community College. As a graduate
student at WMU, she was offered a teaching assistant position.
“I discovered that I loved it,” she said. “After graduating, I just kept on teaching!”
– Zachary Thomas
Nicholas Budimir: Sociology
classroom where the students are encouraged to participate in various discussions.
“I kind of try to approach students as comrades, sisters and brothers who are
struggling to understand the world,” he said. “I try not to be the only ultimate authority
and I am sure my colleagues share this with me.”
One of the aspects of Budimir’s classes that make it unique is his complete
distaste of playing dictator. He lets his students have a say in almost everything, and
wants them to know that he is there to help them learn in ways that are best for them.
Budimir’s approachable and warm demeanor makes it easier for students to feel
comfortable sharing their views in class without fear of retribution.
“I am offering them a perspective on the world, sometimes an alternative
perspective that might challenge some notions and reinforce others,” he said.
Monotony is never a concern in Budimir’s classroom. Every day is different. One
day may be PowerPoint-based, the next spent engaging in an interesting documentary.
“My approach to teaching is to try to accommodate student interest, questions,
and current events/topics as much as possible and stick loosely to the scheduled
topics,” he said. “I don't like to get too stuck in routine.”
Budimir’s word of advice to students rings profound for not only academic
endeavors, but for life as a whole.
“Find the benefit to everything,” he said. “Don’t be bored, be engaged… Students
are never bored. Rather, they are uncomfortable sometimes or so unfamiliar with a topic
that they are unwilling to engage, or unwilling to share their questions for fear of being
seen as standing out. “
– Erika Gill