I have two related goals as an instructor: student articulation and knowledge. My first goal is to ensure that students competently communicate their viewpoints. Competent communication requires that students achieve the second goal, knowledge in their subject. In the classroom, I help students achieve the goals of articulation and knowledge through course design, mentorship, and content relevance. Through my approach, I aim to create competent, considerate, and compassionate citizens.
One of the best measures of a student’s knowledge of course content is the ability to communicate about the course’s subject. Students bring a variety of communication styles and abilities into their education and ensuring each student’s articulation requires a course designed to do so. By designing courses to include lecture and discussions, writing assignments, group work, and presentations, I provide multiple kinds of students multiple opportunities to articulate their understandings of course content to guide their learning, correct any misunderstandings, and elaborate on content.
While students should be challenged to achieve articulation through competence, that does not mean that students should be judged harshly or belittled. Confidence is not achieved by denigrating students and sarcasm is not an effective pedagogy. Instead, students should be guided to dig deeper into their readings, prioritize their coursework, organize themselves, and ask questions of myself and others, all while remaining committed to engagement and discussion.
As a first-generation student I understand the importance of mentorship. I would not be the scholar I am without many important mentors. They have provided me with advice on organizing my work, prioritizing my goals, and maintaining persistence. I hope I can pass these lessons to students to encourage them to be more organized, goal-driven, and persistent. First generation students, international students, students from underrepresented backgrounds, or students with unavoidable life issues may need support and mentorship which I hope to provide.
In my experience students often benefit from connecting daily events with topics in class. In my teaching, students have been interested in the electoral college. Discussing this topic opens doors to discuss other important concepts including federalism, government structure, intergovernmental relationships, and the role of public servants in a constitutional democracy. Additionally, for graduate students, connecting course content to their own research interests shows connections between what they are learning and how they can apply their learning. When course materials can be connected to relevant topics, those materials take on a greater importance for students.
Lastly, sometimes life presents unavoidable challenges in the best of times. For these unavoidable challenges, it is important that instructors can offer sympathy, empathy, and extend grace to students when appropriate. Instructors are important fixtures in students’ lives that can function as a source of stability, understanding, and optimism.