Teaching philosophy

20170517_115435[18606]A sociological perspective offers students an opportunity to see their own personal biographies within broader patterns of social stratification, race, gender, inequality, and conflict.  My approach to teaching is to foster a sociological perspective with intellectual curiosity and clear communication.  I invite my students to reconsider everyday events with analytical rigor and empathy in order to trace connections between course material, historical context, current events, and personal experience.

Through experiences gained in classroom settings, one-on-one tutorials with research assistants, invited guest lectures, and curriculum development, I have grown increasingly convinced that this sociological lens is best nurtured by students themselves.  As a teacher, I cultivate this growth in analytical thinking and communication through student-driven learning experiences, skill-building assessments, and inclusive pedagogy.

I integrate formal and informal assessment methods to build competency in communicating new knowledge.  I value using multiple forms of assessment, not only to measure student progress, but also to build skills and offer students more opportunities for individualized and one-on-one learning.  I prioritize forms of assessment that measure student progress in communicating and analyzing social problems, such as essays, research papers, and oral presentations or debates.

Within the classroom, I explicitly teach and model skills of analytical reasoning and oral communication and I measure student maturity in these skills through low-stakes presentations on common readings as well as scaffolded small- and large-group discussion.  For example, while teaching my course, “Eating a global environment: Critical perspectives on agrofoods systems,” at the University of Chicago, I had students break into groups of three or four and ask them to develop a coherent policy suggestion which addressed the concerns of poor food access in urban Chicago.  Students then presented their team-developed, in-class assessment to the entire class for review, rebuttal, and debate.  This multi-scale discussion structure successfully engaged students of different personalities and contexts in thoughtful and productive conversation about the social structures, actors, problems, and concerns of food injustices and spatial inequalities.

For many students, experiencing the looking-glass of a sociological lens can be both disenchanting and empowering.  I am committed to guiding students of all backgrounds and majors through challenging course material and discussions, holding fast to the expectation that solid, sociological training will prepare them for lives of greater mutual respect and thoughtful citizenship.