Teaching is one of my greatest scholarly commitments. I believe in supporting students to engage fully in the learning process, allowing them to take in new information and process this knowledge. This then gives them the ability to think critically, analyze and apply new learning to their own experiences and lives, and then decide on next steps. These are skills that are necessary for professionals, and being able to practice and hone these skills in the classroom supports students in their future practice.
When students feel connected to the material and take responsibility for their own learning, I feel they become life long learners, rather than just trying to get through a class for a grade. I connect students to the material by ensuring that there are components allowing students to customize their learning. This includes assignments that are connected to their internships or field placements, profiles on historical and current issues that students feel most interested in, and interviewing people connected to the subject at hand as a living history project. In addition, using online discussion boards encourages students to connect classroom materials to news, social media and things going on in their life outside of school. By supporting students in interacting more personally with the material, my goal is to encourage them to find their passion within any subject, and facilitate their own learning beyond the boundaries of the classroom setting.
I support multiple learning styles and intelligences, providing opportunities for learning that appeal to visual, auditory, and experiential learners, as well as those who learn best through readings, discussions, and even role-playing. I design my lectures based on recent evidence that finds most people tend to learn best through viewing coordinated images with little to no text while listening to lecture (Mayer & Moreno, 2003). In ensuring accessibility to all abilities, I also describe images displayed. I use discussions to engage external processors, while using one minute papers and dyad/triad shares to allow internal processors and introverts opportunities to participate. I stress experiential activities with the objective of supporting students in moving up Bloom’s Taxonomy to the goal of being able to analyze, engage and create their own ideas (Forehand, 2005). My passion and accomplishments in creative teaching using multiple technologies can be demonstrated through my supporting development of and offering a nine month long, online-only course as part of the American Medical Students’ Sexual Health Scholar Program for second and third year medical students. This class was taught through WebEx, engaging students in four different countries through online lectures, discussions both in real time and on discussion boards, and experiential assignments outside of the “class time.” Each student completed a final product that would be useful to them in the field; one person did a cultural competency “white coat card” that would allow doctors to better understand experiences of female refugees when performing relationship violence screenings.
I directly address the power dynamic that inherently exists in the classroom by establishing a learning community through open conversation and transparency. Together, each class and I create a learning contract that includes behaviors and attitudes we wish to have practiced during our time together. This includes sharing with students that I too will likely “mess up” regarding correct language, perpetrating microaggressions, or even providing inaccurate information; our profession centers on continuous learning and growth. I encourage students to dialogue with one another, and myself. in a respectful manner, when these “mess ups” occur, regardless of who has misspoken or made a mistake. To be transparent, I do my best to explain my rationale for each assignment, including the overall goals and objectives, as I find that students are more empowered and engaged when they better understand an assignments’ rationale. My goal of establishing a learning community in my classroom, includes using clear grading rubrics without curved grading; rather than pit students against each other, my goal is to create an engaging, supportive learning environment where all learners strive to support each other in reaching their own best.
My teaching interests are broad. Although my primary focus is on topics of sexuality, disability, gender and transgender communities, I am also well prepared to teach theory (including feminist theory, social theories, and critical race theory), critical pedagogy, research methods (including introduction, mixed methods and qualitative), policy, disability/ability expectation studies, power/privilege/oppression focused courses, and introduction to women’s studies. As my Master’s of Human Sexuality Education had a strong focus in curricula and syllabi development, I am equipped to develop new curricula and courses. I recently supported the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work in creating their first curriculum and syllabus for Introduction to Dis/Ability Studies, and have been asked to design a curriculum and syllabus for an inclusive sexualities class in the University of Denver’s MSW program, as well as a critical sexuality studies class for the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s gender and sexuality undergraduate minor.
Of the classes I have taught, one of my favorites has been Introduction to Transgender Studies at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. Given the freedom to recreate the class, I applied a critical pedagogy and active learning lens to revise the existing syllabus and develop new assignments. I brought in panels and speakers from the transgender/gender non-conforming community and I engaged students in discussions to tap into their cognitive and affective learning through pair shares. I used students’ critical questions to direct the flow of the class, and this educational opportunity became a seminar-style course that invites students to go more in-depth into the experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.
Student evaluations of my teaching have been incredibly positive, focusing on my ability to be engaging, offer assignments that are applicable to practice, and creating space for dialogue. Positive comments include “Amazing activity! Will use this activity in the future and cite it!” and “I really appreciated that you didn’t talk to me above my experience or education level, you stayed casual and would gently correct me on terms and give me positive reinforcement.”
As an emerging teacher in the fields of social work and women’s/feminist/gender studies, I recognize that I too am a life long learner, continuing to grow in my pedagogical methodology. I enjoy discussing my assignments and lesson plans with fellow faculty members, and I have been privileged to have been observed teaching, and received constructive feedback from colleagues. My goals as I continue to develop my pedagogical style include (1) continuing to develop and connect with activities that engage learners on multiple levels; (2) having increased clarity about my goals and objectives for each lesson; and (3) requesting ongoing feedback from my students in order to best cater my lectures, discussions and activities to the needs of the students.