Teaching is my vocation, an ongoing source of both challenge and fulfillment. My teaching and research are inextricably connected. My research gives me theoretical frameworks and practical problems that I share in the classroom and my conversations in the classroom test my ideas and sharpen my understanding. I am grateful to be surrounded by students and colleagues who constantly push me to be a better scholar, instructor, and person. Watching how others learn and teach in an environment where this is our shared mission has helped me formulate the following goals in my own pedagogy.
Encourage collaborative learning: I want to encourage more egalitarian, flexible, dynamic classroom relationships. I structure courses and class sessions to emphasize sharing my expertise with students while also encouraging them to articulate their own perspectives and offerings. Students learn from me but I also want us all to learn from one another. I provide many opportunities for formal and informal group discussion and collaboration, in class and online. Increasingly, I try not only to ask students to work in groups, but also to teach them how to be successful in groups and to encourage active problem-solving and experimentation. It’s a challenge—I haven’t given up authority and I do have expertise I think is valuable, but I want to encourage students to take more responsibility for their own learning and to value our collective expertise and participation.
Use multiple modalities for interaction: Multiple modalities help me experiment with how to create active learning and a sense of participatory culture through face-to-face conversation, online interaction in forums, social media, and collaborative documents. In class, we use free writes, silent discussions, and small and large group discussion. Outside of class, we use forums, blogs, Twitter, and websites to support and document learning. All of my classes use one or more online platforms for communicating our schedule and assignments and for hosting interaction (e.g., Moodle, Canvas, WordPress, Weebly, and a wide range of Google tools). I do this not only for the convenience of making information and texts available but also to give class a kind of flexibility it didn’t have before. We add speakers and topics and readings and memes and links and events to a syllabus that exists on line and that students know is liable to change.
Engage students in conversations about how to learn and how to improve: Grades are my least favorite part of teaching, whether we’re talking about the letter grades I give to students or the “student satisfaction” ratings they provide at the end of the semester. I would rather shift the focus to identifying the value of what we’re learning and to participate in larger conversations about how we learn and how we evaluate learning. I want to create life-long learners and problem-solvers (and I want to be one myself). In my classes, we have ongoing discussions about how to give and use feedback about performance. I also communicate with students about course policies, structures, and materials—making explicit my reasons for doing what I do and soliciting their input about how to improve upon it as we go along.
Connecting class to who we are and what we value: I’m excited about offering my knowledge, skills, and experience and I hope that enthusiasm is catching. In any class, I take the lead in selecting what topics we cover and how we cover them, but I try to select material and assignments in such a way that students from lots of different standpoints and with lots of different strengths can find a point of connection. I remain open to additions and modifications that are responsive to student interests. I encourage self-reflection and challenge students to see connections between what we do in class and the choices they make in their own lives.