Teaching Philosophy


My teaching philosophy has three main themes: interaction, practicality, and exploration. The goal of interaction should be empowerment of the student and represents a state in which both the teacher and the student are active in different ways. The pedagogical responsibility borne by teachers must not shade over into indoctrination, and the learning responsibility borne by students should include open-mindedness to a critical examination of issues. In this sense, I see interaction as an engagement of mutual responsibilities, one in which both teachers and students are to understand and respect one another. High-quality interactions require the teacher work to relate knowledge that to knowledge why. Once this mindset is established, students are better able to enter into a higher-order engagement with material. As such, I attempt to incorporate different perspectives (historical, economic, social, etc.) of a topic so that I can present as many critical lenses as possible in the classroom.

In practical terms, my teaching philosophy favors experiential learning, bidirectional feedback, and a multimodal approach (testing, lecturing, discussion, presentations, etc.) to classroom engagement. Interaction is not merely a philosophical concept; to have any meaning, it must be reflected in practice. Experiential learning is one example of such an orientation; by working together on simulations with students, both sides are interacting by doing. In a course on elections, my students learn about the nomination process by participating in mock caucus and primary days, followed by a class discussion and reflection paper. In another project, groups are asked to research national and state party organizations, form committees, develop a platform for the next election, and present their plans at a mock convention. Student presentations of these plans represent an excellent opportunity for interaction, because the specialized expertise that students develop provides a chance to engage one another and the material in different ways.

While I am enamored with political science not only as an academic discipline but as a perspective of human affairs, I am also aware of, and respectful toward, the fact that many undergraduate students will not pursue political science as a major, let alone a career path. Therefore, I am eager to ensure that all students leave with something of value to them. For example, my approach to teaching theory begins from the presumption that theory is a tool for understanding the world, and, in particular, the world of each student. Some students might be able to connect to Foucault or Agamben on a formal level, but every student can—and should be encouraged to—extract the aspects of these theories that make sense of everyday life, and not merely political life. We approach them as explanatory lenses of flexible relevance.

Finally, my teaching philosophy contains a strand of empathetic empiricism. To me, this means being able to step outside and examine perspectives other than our own. In an English literature course, students are asked to understand a character's feelings and experiences. In sociology, anthropology, and psychology courses, students are asked to expand their understanding of other people, societies, and experiences. Studies have shown that this kind of dialogue enhances rather than impairs understanding, and so it is my intention to encourage and facilitate my students' understanding of the world and those who live in it.