Undergraduate Teaching IS 101: Introduction to International Studies (Spring 2016/Fall 2017) PS/IS 431: Introduction to Contentious Politics (Spring 2017) PS/IS 401: Mobilizing for Social Change in Latin America (Fall 2016) IS 601: From Castro to Chiapas: Social Movements and Revolutions in Latin America (not currently scheduled) IS 401: Food and Water in an Age of Globalization (not currently scheduled)
Statement of Teaching Philosophy My teaching philosophy has evolved through practice and is informed by formal training on pedagogy as part of the Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence program. My teaching philosophy currently hinges on two central ideas: student participation and intellectual diversity. I have taught everything from small undergraduate and graduate seminars, to fifty-student advanced lectures, to 300-student introductory courses and have tried to maintain a commitment to these ideas in every environment.
First, I try to cultivate a participatory atmosphere in all of my classes. Participation serves three ends: (1) improved student understanding of course material (2) continuous formative assessment opportunities and (3) personal investment in excellence. I approach lectures with the philosophy that the format only works if students remain engaged—their minds actively turned on—from beginning to end. By making lectures participatory I encourage active engagement with the material and create an environment in which students’ minds are constantly turned on. I ask students to participate in generating the content and covering the material I have planned for every session. I ask questions and push them to engage with how and why the concepts we cover work the way they do, as well as why and how those concepts connect to the case material presented in readings and lectures. I might talk for a ten or fifteen-minute stretch to fill in gaps, clarify the most important points students have just made, or offer new information on a case we are covering. But I try not to talk for any longer without reaching out again and asking students to participate.
Because students are participating regularly I am able to assess how well they are grasping the material. I can then spend more time on concepts or questions with which they are having trouble. This method of formative assessment also gives them feedback on how well they are understanding the material, making elements of the course they are finding challenging clear to them well before an exam or essay. With this knowledge students are then able to seek help and improve prior to an exam.
The participatory format not only helps the students learn the material and provides me with the opportunity for assessment, but also inspires the students to want to do well in my courses. In the fifty-student lectures I get to know each of them—by the third week I have all of their names down and call on them by name during the discussions—and I think this pushes them to work harder. They have something more on the line as they don't want to disappoint a professor who has clearly shown herself to care about each of them and how well they are doing in the course. I think each of them comes away knowing that I am deeply invested in them as people and in their success in the classroom.
Regular participation has played a central role in my ability to successfully and regularly achieve my outlined learning objectives. Almost all of the students in my smaller lecture courses do well on their tests and papers. Students do well because I have inspired them to learn and given them the tools with which to master the material. In my larger lecture course (Introduction to International Studies) performance is, not surprisingly, more varied. But I am confident that many students, even if they have not mastered the material, have left the course better prepared to think critically about a range of international issues.
Regular participation works hand-in-hand with the second key element of my teaching philosophy—intellectual diversity. Students bring a diverse set of worldviews into the classroom and I want all of them to learn to listen to, respect, and productively engage with students, scholars, or other individuals with whom they disagree. I help to make this happen through my own commitment to presenting and critiquing a variety of approaches to the topics we cover. I present multiple viewpoints both in my lectures and in the readings I select for my courses. Through seeing how scholars (and other writers) present arguments and marshal evidence to support their claims, I aim to empower students both to be more critical thinkers and to have the skills to make their own arguments effectively. I require them to take positions on issues as varied as what explains the Cuban Revolution to whether globalization has created a flat world and ask them to use evidence and logic to support their arguments. I hope that by the time they finish any of my courses they have the instincts (and critical thinking skills!) to question entrenched logics about important questions in social science theory and public policy.
There are many important elements to my approach in the classroom (setting clear expectations, trying to be both demanding and fair, continually connecting course material to the students' lives, and making it clear how and why the material is relevant to them, among others) but the participatory lecture format combined with a commitment to intellectual diversity serve as critical guiding principles for most of the choices I make.