First and foremost, I believe that learning occurs best in a supportive yet challenging environment; an environment where both the teacher and students are actively excited about and engaged in the learning process. Therefore, I work hard at making myself approachable both in and out of class. I work to help students feel comfortable sharing their own thoughts and questions by doing my best to learn their names, providing the foundation for a non-judgmental classroom and by encouraging them to connect with each other through collaborative learning activities. I believe that facilitating open dialogue and fostering a supportive environment for learning are particular strengths of mine. I have high expectations for students (e.g., significant amounts of reading, rigorous assignments) and I have found this quality to be self-fulfilling, with my students rising to meet the challenge.
Additionally, I encourage students to be active in their own education. I believe that it is important to inspire students to claim their own education (vs. receiving an education) and hope to instill an excitement about learning and teach students how to learn so they can do it on their own. I consistently ask students to share their own knowledge, intuition, and experiences. In both my undergraduate and graduate courses, I ask students to do research or a class presentation on a topic that they want to learn about in more depth. I further stress the importance of active involvement by including class participation as part of their final grade in all my classes. In an effort to engage students while acknowledging and respecting multiple learning styles (Perry, 1997), I work hard at employing a variety of methods to engage students. I utilize lecture and discussion-based formats, journals, videos, music, guest speakers, Blackboard, class activities, and debates. Similarly, I provide examples that apply the student’s learning to work psychologists do in the field.
Another one of my teaching objectives is to foster critical thinking. In both my undergraduate and graduate courses, I consistently integrate readings that present multiple perspectives or theories (most often utilizing readings from multiple books and journals rather than one textbook). Through the assigned readings, lectures, and class discussion I emphasize the importance of considering issues of diversity. I encourage class discussion, as well as assign journal writing and critical thinking questions that engage students in thinking about the course material from multiple perspectives. For example, in an undergraduate General Psychology class I give a homework assignment that asks students to “Think about people whom you have considered abnormal, unusual, disturbed. What criteria were you using to make this judgment?” In my Psychology of Women course I ask students to compare and contrast various theories that might explain sex/gender differences found in research. In my graduate-level Career Development class I ask students to write an essay where they critically evaluate how well the career theories we study apply to different populations (e.g., gay men, Latina women, people with disabilities). Additionally, I have developed and offered two undergraduate seminars in psychology that focus directly on issues of diversity (Diversity Issues in Psychology, Psychology of Prejudice) and regularly teach a graduate course in Multicultural Counseling.
I really enjoy teaching- I value the opportunity (and privilege) of being a part of the students’ journey as they open their eyes to different thoughts and ideas.