I love teaching! My larger teaching philosophy is below, but in a nutshell, I find it fun and fulfilling and I do my best to help my students find their coursework fun and fulfilling as well. I’ve won a few teaching awards, hopefully not only because of my classroom antics (riding my skateboard and rapping about academic topics), but also because my students actually learn something in my classes.
Working Teaching Philosophy (written as part of my Lilly Teaching Fellows program)
I love teaching because I am able to directly impact others’ understanding of interesting phenomena by facilitating contemplation and interaction, often within a media-rich environment. I have always felt confident about my ability to be an engaging instructor, but in my Lilly Teaching Fellowship experience — during which I studied pedagogical and other teaching-related practices in a cohort of junior faculty — I gained a new ability to reflect on my teaching strengths and challenges. Beyond simply being as exciting an educational performer as possible, I strive to enhance student learning using what I now understand to be the foundations of effective teaching.
To this end, I envision my teaching role as someone who 1) structures information, 2) elicits motivation, 3) facilitates interactive engagement, 4) assesses learning, and 5) responds to feedback. I structure information by utilizing my disciplinary knowledge to organize course subject matter into cohesive units that follow clear themes and offer the potential for cumulative understanding. I elicit motivation by showing my own enthusiasm for course topics, often by flailing my arms, yelling, rapping, and scooting around on my skateboard in front of class. I facilitate interactive engagement by utilizing active learning strategies that encourage all students to participate in discussion (regardless of class size), often using real-time mediated communication (e.g., text forums projected during class) and student-to-student interaction, both in class (e.g., think-pair-share) and after class (e.g., avatar-based forums). On this point, I should note that I enjoy experimenting with new media technologies to facilitate my students’ interaction with the material and each other, not only because this enhances the learning experience, but also because this is a topic of scholarly interest on which I conduct research. I assess learning through traditional tools (e.g., tests, essays) as well as through more complex activities that allow students to illustrate their mastery of the content (e.g., culminating projects). And I respond to feedback from a variety of sources — from student performance on assessments to instructor evaluations to personal conversations with students — by modifying my teaching approaches (e.g., incorporating a new interaction tool, attempting to speak more slowly when lecturing).
I also strive to promote a classroom climate of inclusivity and safety, especially for students who may have experienced personal bias toward them. In addition to promoting equality and respect for traditional minority groups, I have also become aware of a tension between domestic and international students here at MSU. In an attempt to break down some of these barriers, I regularly ask international students to give comparative accounts of the content we are discussing. Further, I assign an essay for which students must interview someone from a different national and language background about media habits in their country (as related to an assigned research article). I am working to refine this assignment and finding other ways to promote positive interactions across such artificial barriers between students.
Outside of regular classes, I also greatly enjoy mentoring students in their research endeavors. I teach an honors undergraduate research seminar in which Ph.D. and undergraduate students work together to conduct original research. I also work with many Ph.D. students on their dissertation committees or informally on their projects of interest. As most of my research is collaborative, students are regularly included as authors on articles and I believe that these experiences are enriching for their research careers.
I have been teaching for a relatively short amount of time, so my philosophies are somewhat fresh and certainly evolving. Still, I am certain that I truly love teaching, and while my highest priority is research, I will continue to invest myself deeply in students and the potential impact I may make in their lives.