Teaching Statement

During my eleven years of teaching, many experiences have shaped my teaching practices. I have taught first year students through graduate students, taught as part of a team, taught in an online/in-class hybrid course, and taught in courses connected across disciplinary boundaries. Through it all I have focused on three core principles: constant inquiry, attention to detail, and individual relevance.

There are few areas of inquiry in which all scholars are in agreement. As such, it is useful to expose students not only to the prevailing orthodoxy, but also to scholars who challenge generally accepted ways of understanding the topic at hand. To that end, I carefully curate readings that provide differing viewpoints on the phenomenon under consideration. I will include, when appropriate, readings with which I disagree and provide them with evidence supporting my stance while still explaining how the author may have arrived at his or her conclusion. As a result, my students are more critical scholars who resist taking information at face value. This also applies to my course construction. I revise my course readings each year, not only to bring in more current research, but also in response to student input and experiences. When a particular reading is beyond the level of the students in the class, or simply less useful than others, I take the opportunity to reconsider that piece.

Closely related to a stance of continual inquiry is an attention to detail. Scholarship is all about the details, and one reason I stopped using textbooks was because important details were often glossed over. In my persuasion course, I had students act out an infomercial in small groups for the final class presentation. Each group was required to create an annotated script justifying each element of the infomercial using current research. Students had to consider the reasons different approaches worked well in some situations for specific people and failed in other cases. These students emerged from the course with more than a general understanding of persuasion theory; they understood how different theories worked together and which strategies would be in conflict.

Once students understand the material and are able to synthesize it, they must learn to apply it. When students are able to apply the material to their own lives, they are more likely to retain that knowledge. When I taught a course in media literacy, I explained that a key element of literacy was the ability to create media messages, so my assignments focused on both analysis and creation. For example, I had students create a “demotivator” poster for one assignment. For the final project, they created some form of parody, but they were required to explain the rationale for the medium that they chose; this helped them recognize the benefits and constraints of specific media forms. When I teach rhetorical theory, I ask students to write bi-weekly reflection papers that apply the readings to their desired profession. The final paper has students synthesize these reflections into a coherent whole with the prompt, “what do people in your profession need to know about rhetorical theory?” My students, both undergraduate and graduate, have been able to create original research and present their work at scholarly conventions.

I ask students to do hard things and they rise to the occasion because I do all that I can to support them and because we are all having a good time in the process. For me, being in the classroom is a blast. I enjoy the moment of recognition when students actually understand the material. I enjoy hearing from students years later that some experience had reminded them of a theory that they had learned about in my class. Most of all, I enjoy seeing each student reach beyond his or her limits to succeed.