I believe that the role of an educator is to empower students with the tools to pursue their own creativity and to make the material accessible and relevant to all students. At the undergraduate level, I empower students by introducing them to new ideas and the skills necessary to become critical users of information. I empower graduate students by mentoring and encouraging them to pursue original research ideas through practical and rigorous research designs. It is my goal that, upon graduation, my students identify as lifelong learners and possess the skills to work independently as practitioners, researchers, and scholars. My teaching philosophy can be summarized with the words of Mark Van Doren who declared “the art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.”
In my role as instructor, it is my primary purpose to guide students to a meaningful understanding of course materials. This task begins with carefully crafted syllabi that highlighting critical works from diverse sets of authors to provide students with a depth and breadth of views, ideas, and opinions. It continues with detailed course preparation involving invigorating lectures and classroom activities that incorporate historical and current events, posing thoughtful questions, while pushing students on their assumptions and ideas to further advance their understanding and encourage them to draw connections between course topics.
It is paramount to design the lectures and classroom activities in a manner to allow students to take ownership of the material. Giving students ownership increases their investment in the course while also being protective of the classroom community that they built. Students’ ownership in the class makes them a more supportive and productively challenging classroom community. When they feel supported, students are more likely to take on and overcome (classroom) challenges. Similarly, if students fail, they are more likely to respond with resilience and grit than defeatism. Since challenges are endogenous to classroom communities with members having different ideas, it is important to establish those communities that are open to these challenges, so challenges become a productive force rather than a deterrent to learning.
To be successful in guiding students to a meaningful understanding of the course materials, setting thoughtful expectations for course assignments, and providing detailed, individualized feedback to students is a necessity. The task of guiding students to a meaningful understanding ends with the design of rigorous and challenging assignments as I believe that high standards inspire students to excellence.
In my efforts to guide my students to a meaningful understanding of course materials, I not only teach students about important political events and theories but I also put a lot of emphasis on and work into teaching students how to think critically. The ability to think critically and assess the merit and value of arguments is more important than ever, given the vast amount of information and news that is easily accessible. Teaching critical thinking in my classroom means developing students’ abilities to evaluate the strengths and limitations of evidence, recognize challenges to making causal claims, and explicitly evaluating the assumptions that underpin arguments. In lower-level classes, I have short writing assignments in which I ask students to answer low-stakes questions such as “is a hot dog a sandwich?” and students have to explain their reasoning in a few hundred words. In upper-level classes, I require students to write 100-word critiques of a reading for each class. In class, I randomly draw the names of a few students and ask them to explain their critique and defend it from their classmates’ and my questions. I also encourage students to analyze historical and current events, not only through the lens presented by media outlets or politicians but also with an appreciation for both the source’s and the audience’s biases. In this manner, students learn to think like political scientists and view the world through more critical eyes, hopefully becoming better-informed citizens and independent thinkers in the process.
As somebody who takes incredible pride in and pours tremendous energy into teaching, the most satisfying element of educating is when students continue discussing the course topics among themselves even after class has ended. To generate this level of excitement and engagement among all my students, I use a variety of teaching techniques, interdisciplinary course materials, and interactive activities in efforts to engage students' and nourish their intrinsic motivation to learn while developing their skills and applying previously learned material to problems, demonstrating critical thinking and effective communication. I believe that active learning, such as structured debates and simulations, can enhance students' experiences and stimulate their minds. Additionally, I strive to make the conversation in my classroom inclusive and accommodating to a variety of learning styles. For example, I provide students with guides on how to read and analyze articles in political science. This allows students of varying experience and competency levels to feel comfortable in the classroom and enables more informed, and thus effective, classroom debates.