Teaching Philosophy

At the core of my pedagogy is a desire to facilitate and encourage a place of collaborative learning. Participants within this place (myself included!) are best served when open to questions, responsive to mistakes, and trusting of peers. If successful, the classroom models the community in which we hope to become contributors. The place of learning then empowers students to create those same places for themselves and others.

To teach is to learn.

Learning is a recursive process of observation, experimentation, communication, revision, and application. While books and rote memorization can help us apply language and structure to our observations, the primary catalyst of discovery is the inspiration which emerges when our curiosity is piqued and we are compelled to engage. In my current first-year writing offering, for instance, we are focused on the critical engagement of news media and the disparities of representation across the media landscape. This informs our subsequent exploration of techniques and practices that are cognizant and accommodating of perspectives and experiences outside of our own. Motivated by these questions, we begin to pursue the answers that are substantive and meaningful.

Our subsequent experimentations – our drafts and prototypes – embody the creative act of translating amorphous thought into tangible forms. The threshold into knowledge, however, occurs in the exchange of ideas and perspectives. With trust, we open ourselves up for critique and guidance and it is at this threshold that the stakes for learning are highest. Will we be able to proceed towards the answers we seek? Or will we have to redress our “failure” and experiment further? Inevitably, our commitment to learning brings us to the point when we must reconcile our own perspectives with those of others in our community. It is ultimately in the application of our learning that we reveal those objective truths as those that nurture the community.

To teach is to make place.

To model this learning process, I have steered my pedagogy towards a more cooperative, reflexive form of placemaking. This place we create guides and responds to the learning process of each student; my charge is to establish the criteria (setting) and facilitate activities (happenings) to which students contribute their experiences and build a learning community. In our classes, we engage in a myriad of topical discussions that reflect current events and social dynamics. With my technical communications students, for example, we focus on a range of ethical debates: representations of race and gender in the STEM fields, the military influence on science, and algorithms of oppression are but a few of the topics. In my spring offering of the Digital Arts & Culture Capstone course, we will be working with the American Black Holocaust Museum to reflect on the impact information design has on the representation of human culture. We will then develop a campaign that evokes the untold stories of America’s victims of racial violence.

My charge is to assist in this placemaking by providing structures that support and facilitate lifelong learning. Rather than mastery of a specific subject, my role is to provide students with the fundamental desire to think critically and continue refining their skills after our time together. For the learning process to be equitable, these structures must also be flexible enough for the student to grow from their current situation. Reciprocal trust is therefore as critical to my teaching as it is for the learning process. To establish this, students must immediately recognize that the place of learning is also one of teaching.

To learn is to teach.

How do I learn from my students? My research focus on ethical information design is motivated by the principles of universal design that I’ve adopted for my classes. Although these principles typically aim at the accommodation of all students, regardless of physical or emotional capacity, I am developing additional principles that further consider financial, cultural, and social capacity. My online course, for example, may be completed with the maximum measure of flexibility in use provided by the academic calendar. In addition to flexible deadlines, this also means that assignments may be completed using means most readily available to students. My courses also provide an equitable platform for anyone to display commitment to their own success, regardless of their ability to actively participate in course discussion, for example.

Because our time in class is short, I believe the charge of the instructor is to model and facilitate the  foundation for lifelong learning. Regardless of curriculum, my classroom is constructed as a laboratory for students to develop an authentic learning practice. Using project management techniques, for example, we demonstrate simple practices that students may use to focus their time on the task at hand and organize their work processes more efficiently. With self-efficacy incorporated into their learning practices, students also benefit from a matured resiliency – a crucial aptitude for today’s citizenry who must be able to respond to uncertainty. Coupled with the capacity to respond, is the ability to participate in a community of practice. Therefore, the ultimate aspiration of my praxis is the emboldening of collaboration and the building of trust.