I have independently taught courses at the college level for 14 years. I have taught at each course level (1000 through 5000). I have taught in a diverse set of classroom environments: large introductory lecture-style course, freshman seminar, technology-focused classes in computer labs, basic and advanced writing courses, upper-division theory courses, graduate seminars, graduate quantitative methods. I am also familiar with teaching online asynchronously and synchronously using Canvas, VidGrid, Zoom, and other learning technologies. Thus, I have learned how to interact and connect with all levels of students in many different platforms. I feel comfortable with setting rigorous learning expectations at each level and platform as well.
As I reflect upon my specific teaching strategies that I have used to connect with students, I realize that I teach better and students learn better from me if the student-instructor relationship is built upon respect, understanding, trust, transparency, and high expectations. I feel most comfortable with a more open and flexible relationship with students. I hear their feedback and learn from them, just as they listen to my instruction and learn from me. Even if I have taught a class four times, I seek and request their suggestions and feedback on the assignments. Perhaps it is the nature of the courses I teach most frequently—multimedia, political communication, and media, science, and society. Multimedia storytelling and political communication, in particular, change so rapidly that I feel the need to always monitor the relevance and appropriateness of the assignments.
My teaching philosophy and course interactions are a result of Brad Garner’s (2012) book on the first-year seminar. One of the major lessons that I learned from the book is to create a classroom community. Creating a community is dependent on building connections and relationships with all my students. Not only do I want to be their credible, respected, and knowledgeable instructor, but I also want to be their trusted mentor such that they feel comfortable talking to me about more than academics. I want to be their colleague. By colleague, I mean: they keep in touch with me in the future, they return to my classes to guest lecture (e.g., I have many former students guest lecture classes), they give me updates on what the student community is experiencing on campus, and they feel comfortable talking about their struggles with managing academics and all the rest of student life. I emphasize that I want to stay in touch via LinkedIn so I can see how successful they have become. I try to make these desires clear to my students, and I try to foster this type of relationship with my students. I have noticed that when I foster this type of flexible, transparent, and supportive relationship with students, then I receive improved class participation and effort, class enthusiasm and interest, class communication and debate, and class expectations and rigor. I hope this is because I tell them I want to listen to them and hear their concerns about their learning progress and my teaching strategies.
My instruction is also inspired by active learning strategies; I have attended (and earned an award) at an active learning conference at UW. I use strategies such as think-pair-share, theory bingo, Kahoot quizzes, campaign design, and more to engage students with the course content. Students have weekly quizzes to encourage accountability to the course content because they must have done the readings beforehand in order for the in-class time to be valuable. I hope that I have provided explanation as to why I believe the student-instructor relationship should be built upon the initial values that I outlined above: respect, understanding, trust, transparency, and high expectations. A strong feeling of classroom community will strongly encourage them to remember the class content, even when they are done with my class. They will remember how the class and its content made them feel: confident to move forward with any career they choose in journalism, mass media, communication, or politics.