Three main principles guide my pedagogy; they are challenge, engagement, and flexibility.
2018 marked a milestone for me, a decade of teaching in Higher Education. Over the course of my career, I have taught courses covering a variety of topics related to Sociology. I have also worked in various capacities on a number of course redesign projects, developing traditional, blended, hybrid, and online curriculum. I have also taught courses implementing all these pedagogical strategies. My time spent developing curriculum gives me an appreciation for well-articulated Learning Outcomes (LOs). I strive to write clear LOs, mapping them to the assessments I use to measure my successes and areas for improvement. Carefully articulated LOs also provides students with clear expectations.
The main goal I have for my LOs is to challenge my students. I push my students, getting them to engage with ideas. I design rigorous curriculum that stretches students to gain an understanding of their place within the social world. With this understanding comes the development of values oriented toward civic mindedness and social justice. The rigor is experienced through activities like community engaged learning, promoting actions that develop a student’s civic skills. As I push my students, I recognize that they need a clear road-map to guide them in their work; the syllabus, email, online course management, and in-class communication are heavily relied upon to keep students aware of all course related expectations, and that these expectations are firm and high.
To achieve the course LOs, the second principle that I focus on is engagement. I strive to incorporate (inter)active learning during every class session. My goal is to make learning engaging and student-centered. I rely heavily on flipped coursework, multimedia content, technology, and discussion to achieve this goal. I require peer interaction as we work through all elements of a course. Dynamic delivery of content including the creation of the “classroom work group” fosters a synergistic connection between myself, the students, and the course content. The goal of engagement is to create a student-centered learning environment where students feel engaged and inspired by the course.
The final principle my pedagogy follows is flexibility. I make a sincere effort to be adaptive to the complexities of teaching and learning. I realize that I can best impact my students if I recognize their different styles of learning. I continually explore new ways to present the material. Careful implementation of technology within my curriculum provides students with diverse learning opportunities. In addition to the use of in-class technology, like clickers, I have been using video diaries as a way for students to do homework assignments. Video submissions are personal journal reflections (if students film other individuals they are required to get permission). For example, in my upcoming Sociology of Law course I will be requiring students to lock themselves into an 8×8’ space for 36 hours. During their “lock-up” students video-log the experience. I also incorporate elements of flexibility into the student workload. Some measure of student control regarding assignments can help reduce anxiety over grades, increase motivation, and facilitate learning by showing my students that although I may be the Professor, ultimately what they get out of the class is up to them.
I strongly believe that I can have a positive impact on many, hopefully most, of my students by giving respect to them and by showing respect for the subject matter I teach. I firmly believe that the three main pedagogical principles I follow creates a learning environment that challenges my students, motivating them to think more deeply and critically about the world around them.