Teaching Philosophy

My primary goals as a teacher are to help students to broaden their knowledge, promote interest in politics, and to help students develop skills to become better students and engaged citizens of the world. Specifically, I want student to think about the ways that they interact with and analyze the world around them. The knowledge and skill set that they attain will vary based on the course, the tools I use for instruction, and the community of students enrolled in the course. I have had the opportunity to teach as a primary instructor and act as a curriculum developer for a broad range of courses including Introduction to American Government, Social Justice and Politics, American Constitutional Law, and Civil Liberties and Rights. Additionally, I have developed course materials for courses like Judicial Process, Introduction to Law and the Legal System, and Research Methods for Politics and the Social Sciences.

I view teaching as a time to help students to develop habits that allow them to think scientifically about the world of politics and social sciences. It is a time to be able to share my own research interests, discuss and empirically evaluate existing research, and to engage my students in critical evaluations of arguments and information they may attain throughout their education and life.  I encourage my students to challenge the theories that they encounter in course material and to critically evaluate the foundations of the author’s arguments and their subsequent empirical tests. I have found that the best way to draw students into the material is to anchor discussion in current events in the United States and across the globe.

Learning in my classrooms is supported through relevant reading and group class activities, online activities for solo student engagement, and in-class discussion. I want to engage my students on a variety of topics and themes to provide a better understanding of politics and provide them a forum to engage as active political citizens. Promoting discussion of these topics starts by encouraging active reading of assigned material, particularly with texts and materials that contain multiple perspectives on issues. The study of politics requires a sensitive but firm hand to foster discussion while recognizing the diversity of students’ backgrounds, opinions, and experiences. I want to promote their opinions and perspectives as I go through my lectures, seminars, and activities so that they feel comfortable in every setting.  I have found that one of the most effective tools for communicating with students is using humor. Given the intensity that talking about politics can bring to a conversation, I find that humor allows me to create a sense of authenticity with my students. When my students are comfortable with me, it allows them to also be at ease with one another. I try to emulate the past professors that I have had to build that sense of comfort in the classroom. In that kind of classroom community, students can know that their ideas, knowledge, and background will be respected and the ideals of a democratic learning environment can flourish.

We are poised at a time in history and teaching that allows us to maximize the opportunities of technology in and outside of the classroom. Students can capitalize on opportunities to engage in the lecture materials with new and exciting enthusiasm. My lecture materials often contain videos, documentaries, and access to online news articles for students to connect to the lecture.  My classes are a mix of lecture, student engagement in small groups, and large classroom discussions in person and online. I also include opportunities for hands-on learning, in which students can engage in structured debates, mock trials, or other simulated political events such as elections, campaigns, and forming political parties or interest groups. It is this type of engagement that is at the center of my teaching philosophy. Student participation of this magnitude, in and out of the classroom, will create an atmosphere of achievement, involvement, and success.  I plan on presenting material in both historical and analytical contexts to engage student’s needs and interests. For students with legitimate reasons for not participating verbally in class, I provide alternative assignments and means for their participation and engagement to  be evaluated.

Assignments are organized to promote critical thinking, writing, analysis, and both group and individual engagement. Dependent on the size of the class and the environment, I plan to offer assignments that will promote critical engagement skills that they can begin to develop to benefit them both in this class and the rest of their college careers.  Examinations and quizzes are aimed not only to evaluate student comprehension of the material, but also to synthesize the results of the learning environment, my teaching strategies, and to measure their engagement and comprehension of the materials presented. In my upper division courses, I also require a selection of writing assignments including current event analyses, case briefs, mock court opinions, and policy research papers. These writing assignments are often scaffolded into sections to better direct feedback to students and student comprehension of the assignments. These shorter writing assignments force students to eliminate superfluous writing and encourage critical thinking and expression of ideas with brevity.

In introductory courses, my goal is to teach students how to synthesize and consume information within the field of political science and in upper division courses in specialized areas of law, the courts, political institutions, and social science research. Processing information and encouraging critical thinking is important to foster productive college graduates. My overarching goal is for students to maximize their abilities to synthesize information from a variety of sources and use critical thinking to assess the conditions of politics and address its problems. By the end of my classes, students should be better consumers and processors of information in the classroom setting, and in the world. I am invested in the teaching process and try to use the feedback that I receive from students to adjust course plans and material. I am constantly updating and adjusting curriculum (including text books, readings, assignments) from course to course to reflect feedback from students and adopt methods that are most effective for student learning. Ultimately, my final goal as an instructor is to provide an environment for learning that encourages success in the course and beyond. I strive to create a report with students that allow them to communicate in the academic setting and more importantly beyond the classroom setting as college graduates in the workforce and engaged global citizens.

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