Course Design: As I design courses I focus on three objectives. First, I aim for courses to expose students to practical and conceptual materials in ways that they will find relevant to contemporary social life. Whether students immediately apprehend the material as relevant or develop awareness of the relevance over time will vary. I revise course material when it is clear from student feedback that certain approaches are not contributing to the overall course objectives. Second, I seek to assist and direct students in improving their scholarly, intellectual, and participatory skills. I have found it effective to explain to students that my intent is that they complete the courses with better skills and resources than they had prior to taking the course. This has consistently prompted students to take responsibility for responding to my offer by increasing their overall effort. Third, I design courses such that students can provide in-stream feedback in the direction and content of the course. That is, I leave some measure of structural decisions open to negotiation so that students can work with me to build consensus about materials, format, scheduling, and strategies for approaching the content.
Learning Environment: My intent is to improve students’ comprehension and confidence in working with course materials, in relating to one another, and in conceiving of the implications for their careers, and their communities at-large. Through the use of interactive exercises, community organizing projects, lectures, small group work, and multimedia prompts, I foster an environment in which safety and comfort are not confused – that is, where students feel safe enough to be uncomfortable in working through the material in order to diminish misinterpretations and disingenuous ideological preconceptions. As a trained facilitator and mediator of conflict, I assist students in interacting with one another and with me in ways that increase their acumen while broadening understandings of practical and conceptual frames of reasoning.
Assignments: For most courses, I assign original and secondary readings, rhetorical précis, short essays, media source analyses, and final analytical essays in a precise order designed to help students progressively build proficiencies in comprehension and analytical writing. For introductory and entry-level courses I use quizzes and exams to help with conceptual understanding, retention, and application to case studies. At times, I administer unannounced quizzes for which students can bring pre-prepared rhetorical précis of the readings. Students may use précis during exams, as well as select content for exam study guides that we collectively develop in class and during review sessions. Typically, a first essay is a rough draft that is returned with extensive feedback. A second essay includes revisions to the first draft and a separate grade for added content as assigned. In assigning and evaluating essays and other written assignments, my intent is to educate students about the organizational, conceptual, and rhetorical resources necessary for effectively outlining arguments and for describing their respective argumentative positions.
Evaluation of Learning: My aim is to demonstrate to students that I evaluate their efforts and their improvements as the priority over achievements. To that end, I inform students that I distinguish between learning for achievement that tends toward treating course material as merely a requirement to endure, and learning for improvement that tends toward expanded capacities for analysis and application of course materials. Moreover, I make it clear that I specifically do not test for ignorance, nor do I design assignments that over-estimate the importance of weaknesses in reasoning. While weaknesses will be considered to some extent, they are at best secondary to the objective of providing students with opportunities to demonstrate what they are gaining. I evaluate gains in abilities to analyze and apply concepts, diagnose and engage in argumentation, and to contribute thoughtfully to intellectual discourses through writing and direct dialogue.
Outcomes: I direct my efforts at providing students with opportunities to develop relational and independent approaches to intellectual materials and contemporary problems. If students are more confident in their own capacities and limitations, posing critical questions as a result of their own reflection and analyses and, thus, less reliant on me and my perspective at the conclusion of a course, I consider that a success. Effective teaching must accomplish more than merely stimulating students, provoking any response. As a result of effective learning environments, students will have improved abilities to better diagnose their own scholarly strengths and limitations.