I approach teaching with three primary goals: mastery of course content and material, fostering critical reading and engagement, and developing strong communication skills.
To ensure mastery of course content, I identify the most important material that I want students to take away from the course, usually only a handful of key concepts. I then structure course topics, readings, lectures, and other assignments to ensure that those key take-aways are woven consistently throughout the course and reinforced at every opportunity. For example, in my research methods course I have identified an understanding of measurement validity as a core concept. We return to validity several times through in-depth lectures on the topic as well as consistent reinforcement of the concept of validity through examples and illustrations as we cover other topics. A search of my powerpoint slides from Spring 2016 shows that I use the word “validity” in 17 of my lecture slideshows, and the concept is woven through assignments and exams. This focus on ensuring mastery of key course concepts requires systematic evaluation of the syllabus and assignments to ensure that adequate time and attention are paid to introducing, developing, and reinforcing course content priorities.
To foster critical reading and engagement, I firstly require students to read and engage with a wide range of sources. In all my classes, I assign readings from multiple types of sources, including textbooks, empirical research articles, primary theory documents, contemporary news sources, and a range of books and book chapters. Many students enter my classes with little experience with course readings beyond textbooks, and while textbooks can be effective to communicate subject overviews and key concepts, I want students to feel equally comfortable reading journal articles and primary theory documents that offer more scholarly depth. In addition to assigning a wide variety of readings, I weave comprehension and critique of assigned readings into class time and course assignments. In class time, I require daily reading checks (one or two questions, open book, concerning key issues from the readings) and offer guided discussion during lecture. I also require students to write “reading response papers” throughout the semester that: 1) summarize the reading and offer quotations for key concepts, 2) critically engage by discussing the most and least convincing aspects, connections to other class material and readings, and appropriateness of claims and data, 3) offer a personal response to the reading and how it relates to their life and/or contemporary social issues, and 4) draft discussion questions that arose from the reading. In addition, students develop critical reading and thinking skills by finding and engaging their own sources through research proposals and papers. Throughout my classes, I offer opportunities for students to read, comprehend, and critique a wide range of sources through a variety of assignments, strengthening their capacity as critical consumers and creators of information and knowledge.
My final goal is to develop strong communication skills, both spoken and written. I develop spoken communication skills through in-class activities such as serving as class discussion leader, debates, small group discussion, and guided discussion with the entire class. I do a number of “think-pair-share” activities in which students are given time to reflect and free-write on topics or questions, then share those reflections with a partner and discuss, before sharing their insights with the entire class. In addition to multiple in-class and online (through Blackboard) opportunities for casual free-writing and reflection, I also build assignments to help students develop more extensive writing skills. For research papers and proposals, I require students to engage in multiple rounds of pre-writing, such as developing an outline and annotated bibliography, and required rough drafts. We engage in peer-review of rough drafts and workshopping of methods assignments during class, using guides I have developed to ensure quality review and assessment. In addition, I openly discuss my own writing process with students and share examples from my own work and stages of revision. By moving through multiple stages of writing, peer review, and discussing examples of my revision process, students learn the importance of revision and refinement and how to effectively communicate through writing. On exams, I require essay and short answer questions that develop crucial writing skills.
I achieve these goals in my teaching through careful planning and organization, constant reflection, and consistent efforts to improve. Additionally, I strive to communicate high but clear expectations to students, relying on clear descriptions of assignments and transparent rubrics to define evaluation criteria. I teach to multiple learning styles, combining lecture with discussion and activities and integrating multimedia in the classroom. I evaluate my course content every semester to include current literature and debates, and strive to make all of my students feel valued and respected.