My teaching philosophy centers on helping students to relate directly to the material. It is my belief that in order for students to fully absorb the material, they must be able to recognize how it relates to their own lives. This is especially important when teaching students about the history of the U.S. Constitution, which can often feel foreign to students raised in the Internet era, or while explaining the primary theories of international relations to American students, who often rarely have spent time considering foreign policy and diplomacy.
Two of my favorite teaching tools involve my own research interest: the media. One assignment that I find helps students relate American government to their own lives is the News Article Review. Several times throughout the semester, students are expected to choose a recent article from a reputable news source that relates to a provided, course-relevant topic. They must follow a template to provide a short review and analysis of the article, explaining how it relates to the topic and what they learned from reading it. The second tool I use involves non-news media – usually videos and music. Several fields of research point to the helpfulness of non-news media in teaching situations.
I also fervently believe in helping students learn how to learn. That is, I spend time both in class and one-on-one with those who come to my office hours teaching students different ways to study and take notes. The American education system, in particular, has made it difficult for some students to switch from the memorization techniques they picked up in high school to the longitudinal studying methods needed to succeed in college. I find that simple suggestions of how to transfer information from the short-term into the long-term memory does wonders for my students’ on exam day.