Webster University Teaching Festival Poster Presentation: February 2018

Webster University Teaching Festival Poster Presentation: February 2018

 

Areas of Specialization

My teaching interests lie in the fields of International Relations, Comparative Politics, African Politics, International Organizations, and Research Methods. I have experience teaching undergraduate introductory courses in Comparative Politics, International Relations and Research Methods, and am prepared to teach these courses at the Graduate level. I also teach upper level courses on International Organizations, Democracy and Development, and on the United Nations. I offer courses in conflict resolution, comparative regional institutions (in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia), Politics of the Developing World, International Relations Theory, African Political Institutions, China in Africa, African Political Thought, and Race, Hip Hop, and Popular Protest.

Teaching Philosophy

I am committed to exposing students to diverse perspectives of international relations and comparative politics by cultivating a deeper understanding of the fierce contestations that exist over how political actors define the problems and solutions of social and economic life, particularly in the Global South. Understanding the many career paths students can take studying international relations and comparative politics, my classes combine theoretical concepts with culturally diverse and practical empirical cases that focus on ways to get students to use course content in the future and encourage students to engage actively with each other to make course content meaningful to them and their course experience. I facilitate and support student learning by aligning my teaching methods; lectures, simulations, and discussion-based learning with my student learning goals of collaboration, reflection, and critical engagement. I find student learning occurs best when students are exposed to multiple forms of content and have multiple opportunities to process content. Student learning occurs mostly outside of the classroom; hence, students should have the requisite tools to ensure a comprehensive learning experience. My goal as an educator is to facilitate a comprehensive learning experience by relying on three core principles in my teaching: 1) Access 2) Enhancing Metacognition through Critical Thinking and 3) Learning through collaboration.

Access: Early in my academic career, I experienced a lack of mentorship, which left me navigating the early stages of academia on my own (figuring out where/how to apply to graduate school, how to professionalize myself as a person of color in Political Science, etc.). Because of these experiences, I am committed to mentoring and advising and believe that access to the professor is integral to student learning in and outside of the class, as it provides an opportunity for me to learn about my students in ways that extend beyond the classroom and provides the opportunity for students to have deeper and more meaningful interactions with me as the professor. 

Enhancing Metacognition through Critical Thinking: One of my goals in creating a comprehensive learning experience is to foster student development and growth through higher order thinking skills. This occurs through strengthening students critical thinking skills and cultivating the ability to apply knowledge to their own lived experiences. It is important that students develop the ability to apply principles and generalizations already learned or learned in a course to new problems and situations, and more important that they are reflective of their own positionality in their analysis and application.

To foster metacognition, I allow students time to think and contribute to class discussions in a substantive manner by providing pre-support and orienting students on how to synthesize and integrate information and ideas from course materials. For example, in my Introduction to International Relations course, I use a variety of Small Teaching techniques to foster continuing engagement with students as well as facilitate a growth mindset in each class session. I also use "Slack" as a learning management tool, which incentivizing students to use the chat function to talk about the readings or to seek help from classmates and myself on tackling tough concepts. Allowing students ample time to think and providing multiple methods of critical thinking helped students engage with each other and encouraged contact between my students and me. I also noticed a marked improvement in the quality of participation in and out of class, because of students spending targeted time with the reading assignments. I find this mode of participation fosters inclusivity as it provides a method outside of traditional classroom participation, fosters student input, and serves as an alternative form of assessment in which students receive peer and instructional feedback immediately.

Learning through collaboration: Understanding that students bring a multitude of knowledge and educational or professional experiences, I focus on building a classroom community that relies on students learning from each other and continually attempting to improve. I encourage my students to be active and constructive participants in the course, with the belief that students have as much to learn from each other, as they have to learn from me. I achieve learning through collaboration through encouraging multiple modes of participation and assessment. In my course on the United Nations, my students worked in pairs to simulate the UN Security Council and deliberate on issues such as civil conflict in Sudan and Climate Change (during the Paris Agreement deliberations). Students embodied their roles as representatives from “developing and developed” countries and would often consider their country’s position in the world and align based on foreign policy legacies, current political dynamics, or substantive issue areas related to the topic at hand. I found this to be a useful form of collaboration, because it gave students the opportunity to learn more about the countries they represented, allowed students to formulate their own interactions amongst each other, and allowed students to apply country knowledge to ongoing debates at the UN. I intentionally have students work in pairs to collaborate, interact and connect to ensure that all of my students are participating and have a voice in the classroom.