Project Description

Teaching Philosophy

Creating Learning Experiences

The six short, single-spaced paragraphs looked horribly incomplete – after all, the assignment called for at least two pages. Compared to submissions from his classmates, the effort seemed half-hearted, irresponsible, and negligent – unless you take a closer look.

And I did. I’ve found that regularly meeting with my students individually can reveal important insights that are missed in a group setting. This time was no exception. After just a few minutes, I learned that his six paragraphs weren’t half-hearted at all – in fact, they were amazing. You see – he has a learning disability.

I suddenly realized how much effort and worry he had put into those paragraphs. I asked him some questions to better understand his struggles and we came up with some ideas for helping him meet the course requirements.

Sensing that my student could use some additional encouragement, I connected him with a colleague who once struggled with the same learning disability. After the three of us talked, I adapted my teaching style and tailored his assignments to create a better learning experience for him. He made dramatic improvements and left the course with increased enthusiasm for his education and career.

Experiences like these have dramatically influenced my teaching philosophy, one I’ve developed over the last decade teaching workshops, mentoring students, critiquing student work, coaching employees, and building teams. The intertwining thread that connects the experiences described below is that the goal of education is to help students learn, not just to impart information.


My Strategies and Objectives

Preparing  Students to Learn How to Learn in Any Industry

Critical Thinking is Essential for Lifetime Learning

I rarely believe what I read at first glance and my students know this. They know because when they quote a source or make an assertion I often come back and ask, “What evidence do you have that this is true?”

Critical thinking, the ability to analyze our thought processes and the way we present evidence for our assumptions, is an important facet of learning in a world easily misled by all kinds of digital noise. It’s a skill I’ve developed for over two decades as a journalist, entrepreneur, and teacher. And it’s one I firmly believe transcends industry boundaries and should be in the arsenal of every student, manager, employee, and educator.

Methods I Use to Integrate a Critical Thinking Mindset

Students Learn More Effectively by Teaching

My throat isn’t quite dry yet. I’ve only been talking for about ten minutes, with a question interjected here and there to break things up in a lecture on team building. It’s a subject I’m passionate about, having spent most of my career leading and building teams in business, in media, and in volunteer work. I could go on and on and on. But I don’t.

Instead, I turn the time over to my class, asking them to divide into pairs and explain to each other the concept I just presented. The room livens as I eavesdrop a little, impressed with their understanding and the fresh perspective they bring as they teach one another something they learned just minutes earlier.

I first started using this technique after a student told me that my lectures were too long. Surprised, I almost laughed and said, “Well, if you think my lectures are long, just wait until you go to your first business meeting or attend graduate school.” But I didn’t. I knew that she was right because I had experienced the same thing, struggling through long presentations only to forget most of what had been taught.

Since then, I’ve worked hard to collaborate with my students to find more effective ways to help them master the subject and apply their learning in everyday life. What I’ve come to discover is that students learn more effectively when they themselves teach.

Methods I Use to Integrate Student Teaching into My Instruction

Collaborating with Students for Customized Learning

It’s about 30 minutes before start time, but about a dozen students are already in their seats. By the time I begin my 45-minute presentation, at least 40 more from various parts of the United States will arrive to the large lecture room where I’ve been invited to teach as part of a national conference at Columbia University.

I walk around the room, introducing myself to each person, hoping to remember their names so I can call on them later. A little surprised, they politely say hello, telling me where they’re from. I then ask them some questions, trying to learn what they hope to get out of my instruction and allow them to ask me some questions.

And I’m surprised. Things I never seriously considered when I prepared my class take on added importance. After a few more questions, I’ve noticed some patterns and I’ve already formulated some new ideas. With just a few minutes to go, I quickly modify parts of my presentation to make sure these new insights and questions are addressed and somehow I start on time.

While these spontaneous conversations are short in comparison to more formal interviews I conduct with students for much lengthier instruction, the insights gained from these brief, one-on-one conversations are informative and I’m better able to help them achieve their goals. Collaborating with my students to customize their learning experience is an important part of my teaching philosophy.

Methods I Use to Collaborate with Students for a Better Learning Experience

Be A Sponge

My colleague is a sponge. He used to hover around my desk, watching me work, asking me why I did things the way I did them. Over dinner, he often sketched ideas on restaurant napkins, asking more questions, and brainstorming new approaches.

Andrew Clark is a user-experience designer who inspired me to be a sponge. We worked in a newsroom at a media company, regularly interacting with experts in writing, editing, design, photography, advertising, marketing, web development, project management, and business. In the time we worked together, we both developed dozens of new skills just by observing each other and our colleagues, asking questions, and trying things out.

And that’s why I strongly believe that for my students to compete in our information and technology-based economy they must be sponge-like, absorbing knowledge and perspectives from not only their instructor, but from colleagues, supervisors, clients, other students, and customers no matter what discipline or industry they come from.

Methods I Use to Integrate a Sponge-Like Mindset

Failure is an Essential Part of Learning

They lean over their desks, pencils in hand, braced as though preparing to run the 100-meter dash. I hold my stopwatch in the air and give one simple instruction – sketch a self-portrait in 60 seconds. And they’re off. Some hesitate briefly, not sure how to begin while others have already sketched a full head and hair. Soon the sound of short strokes of graphite scratching against small yellow Post-its fills the room.

And the results are entertaining. Some are just stick figures. Others are close-ups with missing noses, ears, or hair. None are quite realistic, but all of them prompt laughter and applause as they display on the screen. While this exercise may seem juvenile, especially for a college campus, it’s designed to make one very important point – it’s OK to make mistakes.

It’s a technique I learned from one of my professors at the University of Maryland, one I’ve since adapted and applied to numerous subjects, fields, and situations. It sets students at ease, creating a learning environment that emphasizes the importance of being biased toward action, never allowing our fear of making mistakes to prevent us from transforming our ideas into reality and sharing them. And it’s a reminder of one of my most important philosophies – failure is an essential part of learning and should be embraced.

Methods I Use to Help Students Learn from Their Failures


Teaching Experience

Instruction for Students and Professionals Across Industries


Power of the Huddle

I regularly teach this 45-minute workshop at Columbia University’s national journalism convention. The course covers important leadership and team building strategies, skills, and techniques that I’ve developed over two decades working in business, media, and non-profit organizations. I lead students in an exercise where they work in groups to apply what I’ve taught to a real leadership problem they’re experiencing.


Essentials in Online Project Management

I was invited by Columbia University to teach a 45-minute session on how to better manage web development projects. In this course, I show students how to apply project management best practices and principles to establish a clear vision for their final product, how to work with multiple stakeholders to manage expectations and prevent scope creep, and I also introduce them to low-cost tools and resources that save time and money.


Applying Journalism Skills Across Industries

I was invited by Columbia University to design and teach a one-week workshop about creating and marketing content for an online audience. Over the last eight years, I’ve adjusted the course to better meet the needs of my students who plan on entering a variety of careers outside of professional media. Students learn and experiment with a variety of techniques used by professional media, using writing, reporting, and visual communication skills to apply search engine optimization (SEO) strategies, manage social media marketing campaigns, navigate ethical issues, motivate and build teams, and persuade others. The workshop has garnered positive student reviews and enrollment increased by 80 percent over a three-year period. The project sponsor now uses my revised course description as a model for other workshops in the program.


Professional Critiques of Digital and Print Publishing Projects

As a consultant and instructor for Columbia University’s national media association, I regularly review and provide virtual and in-person critique sessions for teams working on university and high school websites and print publications. Using a written set of standards developed by the association that itemizes best practices for student media, I analyze their strengths and weaknesses and provide constructive suggestions for improvement, creating a more focused learning experience.


Visual Communication Strategies

Strong visual communication skills are a valuable asset in any career path, discipline, and industry. In this 50-minute session, I leverage my extensive experience as a project manager and media professional to teach techniques and strategies effective across industries, that can be used to ideate, plan, and manage projects, coordinating visuals and written content for compelling results.


National Judge – Digital and Print Media

I am a national judge at Columbia University for the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s Crown Awards, the organization’s highest recognition for student print and digital medium for overall excellence. Working with a panel of judges, I select entries for special recognition and provide constructive feedback on their team’s performance.


Geo-Social Media in an Uncharted World

I was invited by Columbia University to present about the development of Geo-social Media, a concept I helped pioneer. Geo-social Media leverages online infrastructures to merge geographical data with informative professional media content built around an online social community.


Managing Media Projects – A Case Study

I was invited by the Utah State University communications department to make a presentation about managing media projects. The invitation came after I led a team in developing a production about a young mother waiting for a heart transplant, which was awarded public service honors for saving lives and received international attention.


Student Testimonials

“The great thing about this class was the broad range of assignments–from op-eds and play reviews to profiles on a fellow student and even a blog design– and the emphasis on a quick turnaround which mimics real-world journalism. The instructor gives helpful feedback and also has some outside colleagues in journalism read over your work. He has a broad range of experiences that he draws on to guide the class and to help you understand what life is like in the world of journalism today. I still draw on some of the skills I gained here for my internships and classes in college.”

Alle Tyler, Student at Georgetown University - Science, Technology, and International Affairs

“The instructor was very hands-on, helping me to drastically improve my skills as a writer. The course sparked my passion for journalism and the tools learned will be crucial to making my career aspirations a reality.”

Jack Gregory, Student - Saint Peter's Prep, Menham, NJ

“Going into this class, I was fairly anxious as I had very little experience in journalism. However, I soon learned that regardless of where we stood in our academic careers, there was something to take away. Mr. Murray taught us in a way that prepared us for the real world.”

Juyoung Lee, Intern at Vogue Korea

“After attending the program, I found that my interview questions prompted better responses and ultimately generated better quotes.”

Cole Greenberg, Student - Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Md.