The sociological perspective requires learners to rethink their most basic assumptions about everyday social issues. Through connecting seemingly isolated moments to larger social forces and patterns, students begin to see the world in a deeper and more complex way, making meaning out of their lived experiences. This field of study introduces diverse perspectives and new ways of thinking, allowing students to forge opinions beyond common sense and think critically about the social world around them. I view learning as an active, constructive, and contextual process. Because of this, I see my role as a facilitator who equips students with tools to become analytical thinkers that critically examine the world around them. As an instructor, I help students understand the relevance of sociology to their everyday lives, while creating a welcoming classroom environment. Reflection and revision are also important elements of my teaching philosophy since it is necessary for course design and instruction to be iterative processes.
The social sciences are invested in the study of complex human relationships-a world in which there is rarely one "right" answer. To face this challenge directly and prompt students to think critically in multifaceted ways, I invite controversial topics into my classroom with intention. For example, introductory courses commonly use theoretical perspectives that serve as lenses with which to view society. In order to teach these approaches and to encourage students to explore topics from multiple angles, we analyze subjects such as immigration, the gender pay gap, and #BlackLivesMatter by using role play and debate. This yields positive results as students report a more thorough understanding of the sociological concepts and an awareness of the complexity of contemporary social issues.
I help students actively engage with course content by linking the material to their everyday lives. I often leverage students' background knowledge by asking them to brainstorm what they already know about a given subject. We then use this as a springboard for discussion, giving me the opportunity to build on prior understandings while simultaneously addressing any misconceptions or gaps in knowledge. I also make explicit connections to current events by assigning weekly presentations where small groups find and discuss a recent news article that relates to a course topic. Through this application and analysis, students gain a sense of ownership over the subject, build a deeper understanding of the material, and are able to appreciate its broader implications outside the classroom. In their feedback, students have shared that these presentations "showed the real life application of the concepts we were learning" and "really added relevance to the class".
Rather than acting as a formal authority figure in my classroom, I encourage student ownership over the learning process. One way of supporting this is allowing students' questions and interests to guide classroom conversations. I ask students to submit two discussion questions prior to each class, which I use to structure our lesson. Students also apply new knowledge about research methods by conducting their own preliminary studies through mini-ethnographies and pilot in-depth interviews. These assignments foster personal investment and equip students with the tools they need to make social discoveries of their own.
I cultivate a supportive learning environment for all students by incorporating inclusive teaching practices into each stage of my course design. This includes constructing a syllabus with diverse readings and authors while aiming for cultural and global breadth. I also employ a variety of teaching techniques and assessments that acknowledge students as a diverse group, both in terms of life experience and the ways in which they learn. At the beginning of the semester, I work to foster open communication both inside and outside the classroom. With the intention of building positive working relationships with my students, I ask that everyone attends my office hours in the first two weeks of the term. During these meetings, I talk with students about their motivations for taking the course, ask them ways I can make the learning experience more comfortable for them, and get to know more about their background and interests. Students can also ask me any questions they might have about the course or my teaching approach, setting the norm of attending office hours and talking with me outside of class. Inside the classroom, I am transparent about my instructional choices by explaining the purpose behind various activities, assignments, and readings. I also ask students to collectively brainstorm what a good classroom discussion looks like and together we determine a set of classroom norms. Whenever issues arise later in the semester, I point toward these expectations to guide students toward more productive and respectful conversations. These techniques help create a learning community centered on open communication and mutual respect between the students and myself.
Purposeful and frequent assessments and solicitation of feedback help me evaluate student learning and reflect on the effectiveness of my own teaching. Through integrated course design, I consider how to help students achieve each learning objective and incorporate formative assessments throughout the term. Low-stakes classroom assessment techniques such as think-pair-share and one-minute papers guide my improvements in the ongoing teaching and learning process. I also conduct mid-semester evaluations which allow me to receive feedback and make changes to the course before it ends. Additionally, I ask students to submit reflection and revision reports for each of their assignments and I use this information to make improvements for future courses. These reports give students a chance to reflect on their own learning styles and demystify the learning process.
I intend to continue my professional development as a teacher by staying up to date on the latest scholarship on teaching and learning and incorporating new practices into my classroom. I will maintain a reflexive approach to teaching through continually soliciting feedback and reevaluating my materials, techniques, and assessments. Ultimately, I wish to reshape the way my students see their world. Through asking students to view challenging topics from new perspectives, helping them take ownership over the learning process, and demonstrating the relevance of sociology to their everyday lives, I hope to encourage an informed interest in social issues, supporting and empowering students in their professional and personal development.