As James Madison wrote, "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." Teaching is essential to the pursuit of a more perfect union and equitable society, and is an important part of who I am as a scholar.
I love teaching. I want to make social science relevant to my students’ intellectual and professional goals, and to contribute to scholarship on teaching and learning. I believe that helping students develop a broad set of skills that they can utilize in a wide variety of professional and intellectual pursuits is a critical goal of teaching. In helping students produce strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills, they are graduating with the tools necessary to be life-long learners and engaged citizens. I endeavor to provide this type of education through four main strategies: instruction in key concepts, practicing skills and theories through active learning approaches that demonstrate the relevance of subject matter to students’ everyday lives, mentorship, and creating an inclusive learning environment where students are recognized as individuals with diverse backgrounds, skills, and learning styles.
In every course I teach, all lectures, readings, and materials facilitate students’ achievement of course specific and broader objectives. My central goal is for students to become active citizens that critically analyze and engage the environment around them. Learning is the objective, not a particular course grade. I strive to push students to improve throughout the semester—just as I push myself to develop as a teacher—using several strategies. In each class I offer, students engage in critical questions—historical and contemporary—of American democracy and public policy. Through interactive lectures, including games of Jeopardy, students learn information, recognize and evaluate how it is relevant for participating in American society, and apply knowledge and theoretical concepts to events.
In teaching, I ask students to challenge their assumptions and consider new theories of knowledge and practice. Through critical engagement, I help students learn to think analytically and evaluate claims about the U.S. political system while engaging how the government responds to issues of public policy. I evaluate my students’ success using many assignments that I have developed during my seven years in the classroom as a teaching assistant, instructor of record, and lecturer. I utilize a variety of in-class activities and written assignments to develop critical thinking skills and enable students to practice the concepts and theories taught in lecture, including analysis of how political decisions are made. I believe these skills help students regardless of their chosen career or major.
I believe valuable skills are developed through practice. In my courses, I incorporate a group activity whereby students can better understand the policymaking process and concepts such as the collective action problem. These in-class simulations provide an opportunity wherein both instruction and practice in concepts and skills may occur. Recognizing the effectiveness of these simulations for achieving learning objectives and teaching elements of political strategy (e.g., agenda setting, strategic voting, etc.) eschewed in many survey courses, a colleague and I published our findings in the Journal of Political Science Education. Simulations provide a way for students to engage concepts in ways typically not possible during lecture and demonstrate the complexity of decision-making. Students frequently comment that the simulation was constructive, fun, and beneficial to their learning.
A central component of instruction and learning is mentorship. I seek to provide high quality mentorship to my students and colleagues. I encourage students to attend office hours to discuss academics and the ways I can help them be successful in their education. I encourage students to meet with me before assignments are due to review and improve their work. I want to provide them a comfortable space to inquire about complicated questions, such as internships, or to discuss challenging personal circumstances. I believe teachers have an obligation to care about the wellbeing and success of their students. I am proud that while at the University of Florida I was presented an award for mentorship, and that many former students have told me they found our conversations outside the classroom to be helpful and motivating, academically and personally.
I incorporate diversity into my teaching to create an atmosphere where students from all backgrounds feel welcome to participate. In constructing my course syllabi, I include readings from individuals underrepresented in American politics, political science, and public policy. I do my best to include discussion of underrepresented groups in course materials and ensure ethnic, gender, and religious diversity is represented in the classroom. I believe an inclusive classroom is important for students to succeed.
I always try to see my students as individuals with different learning styles and beliefs. As a result, I incorporate many learning strategies and provide multiple resources for students. These include guides on accessing resources and conducting research more efficiently, as well as lowering the cost of materials and making sure they are accessible to students who speak English as a second language or have disabilities. I help students identify and utilize appropriate campus support resources when necessary to reduce barriers to their education and wellbeing. Students have said policies as simple as extra credit, extensions on assignments, and these resources have made a difference in their learning.
The best teachers I had brought passion for their students and politics to the classroom. I try to show that same enthusiasm. My hope is that this pushes students to build critical thinking and problem-solving skills, as well as become life-long learners and engaged citizens.