As a university teacher I structure my courses with the following objectives in mind. First, I believe that a liberal arts education should teach students how to think by fostering critical thinking, research, and writing skills. Students should be able to reason logically and statistically and to differentiate causation from correlation. They should be able to communicate complex ideas with confidence in clear speech and writing. Second, I aim to promote long-term retention of information. Students should be encouraged to repeatedly apply material learned in class to promote real, rather than rote, learning of the information. These objectives work in conjunction to prepare students to excel in their future academic and career goals.
I use a combination of traditional lecture and active student participation in individual and group activities to achieve these goals, as active student learning is a pedagogical principle that promotes student acquisition of knowledge. Additionally, each course I teach includes a research and writing intensive application of course material. For example, in my undergraduate quantitative research methods course I assign activities in which students apply course content to specify a theory-driven hypothesis and then design a research study in which they articulate the measurement plan, research design, sampling procedure, and data analysis tools. Students are also required to critique a news article of their choice that summarizes a primary source of research for its methodological content to determine its accuracy and completeness in reporting the study and its results.
Additionally, students in my undergraduate health communication course build a portfolio throughout the course of the semester that exemplifies excellent research and writing skills. Within the portfolio, students identify a contested health issue related to the prevention or detection of a health topic of their choice, obtain a related published scientific article, and examine media reports of the science for its accuracy and comprehensiveness. Students then select an audience who should be targeted with messages related to their health topic and critique public health messages using strategic message design principles discussed in class.
I believe that learning to teach effectively is an ongoing process, and I aim to further expand the pedagogical tools I currently employ to achieve my teaching objectives. Doing so involves active participation in teaching workshops, including, for example, the workshop I attended on teaching to diverse students, including those in the LGBTQ+ community. I also hope to continually adapt the activities I use with new and exciting learning opportunities for students. For example, I plan to incorporate a service-learning component in my courses in the future. Service learning as a pedagogical approach allows students to apply their knowledge to community contexts, which furthers their understanding of relationships between course content and its application to the real world. Further, actively engaging in the community can be daunting, and this type of activity would give students valuable experience in an issue area they care passionately about.
I chose to pursue a career in academia because I want to not only advance knowledge through research, but also contribute to the field of communication science and society by educating students. Indeed, I believe that students are entitled to high quality instruction in an active and stimulating learning environment, and I strive to provide that in each course that I teach.