Philosophy of Teaching

Central to my philosophy of teaching is the conviction that it is much more important to teach students how to think than to simply teach them what to think. Seen in this light, a university-level education is not just a quantitative process consisting of the sum total of knowledge one is supposed to have memorized throughout the course of their studies but, rather, a qualitative process by which the student is transformed both internally—in the way s/he understands their own existence—and externally—in the way s/he orients themselves within their community, as well as their broader society.

In my course syllabi I outline what I consider to be the sanctity of the university-level classroom. I expect each of our meetings, I inform my students, to maintain a collegial atmosphere in which each and every student is able and feels empowered to explore, learn, and grow without fear of embarrassment and or harassment from others. Thus, by facilitating an environment of equality and mutual respect, I aim to not only promote healthy discussions and inquiries but also to encourage my students' empathetic impulses, both towards one another and the historical topics and themes being explored within the course.

History, unlike many academic disciplines, holds the potential for expanding students’ worldviews and, therefore, positively shaping both the present and the future of society. To this end, I dedicate a significant amount of energy to teaching my students about some of the methodological foundations of the historian’s craft. Once students are able to competently interrogate and contextualize primary source historical information, they can begin using these analytical skills in “reading” and thinking critically about both historical questions and contemporary issues. What’s more, studying history promotes tolerance of diversity and expands students’ socio-cultural vocabularies. In being confronted by the everyday challenges, anxieties, and other experiences of history’s common people, for instance, students are not only better able to see reflections of themselves within the humanity of these ordinary actors, they are able to see these qualities within the lives of their colleagues, fellow citizens, and others within today's increasingly 'globalized' world. In this way, I hope to foster intra-communal cooperation and international concord through teaching the upcoming generation about the importance of understanding the past within the context of the present.

Finally, to encourage peer-to-peer communication within my classrooms, I employ a two-part pedagogical strategy. Firstly, I announce each of my weekly homework assignments via unique online blogs I maintain for each of my courses.[1] Not only do these homework assignments help prepare my students for stellar participation during our section meetings, they also help them progressively build a portfolio of some of the course’s primary topics and themes which greatly assists them in preparing for the course’s papers and exams. Secondly, in order to keep track of my students’ in-class participation I require them to jot down various notes on the backsides of their homework assignments. Students may come to section with one opinion or impression and, based on our group discussion, change their minds. By recording these in-class impressions, my students demonstrate that they came to section prepared, engaged with and listened to their colleagues, and took something away from the group discussion.

[1] See Sarah A. Curtis, Jason Lahman, and Brian J Griffith, “Blogging in the Classroom: Using a Blog as a Supplemental Resource,” Perspectives on History: The Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association 50:4 (April 2012): 20-22.