Teaching Portfolio

IMG-4501.JPG

"I especially like the flipped classroom style, because we can learn Sociology on our own at our own pace and apply the information together."

Screenshot_1.png

In the very first light, with no more than a pale washed sky, a harvester moves across goldenrod plains. At the beginning of the season, seeds were sowed and left to germinate. Facilitated by foundational resources, they take individual initiative to orient themselves within the soil and grow towards a warm, Illinoisan sun. Once the viridescent stems break through the crust of the earth, their maturation is brought about by strong, but tender hands.

Just as this rich, drummer soil slowly broke to seedlings in seek of light to facilitate their growth, so as I hope to facilitate the development of my students as seekers of a collective, social trust and empathy for all that which engages the land. As a rural social scientist, my research and teaching are grounded-- both in the traditional university classroom, and beyond the tower in Cooperative Extension programming. Students will participate in a systematic study of the ecological structure of communities and the processes by which individuals, groups, and societies interact, communicate, and use human, natural, and economic resources, including the application of sociological principles to the challenges facing Rural America.

I believe my students are best served by a pedagogical philosophy that emphasizes active understandings of the world around them. Further, I subscribe to the idea of University as bestowing a liberal education: empowering individuals with broad knowledge and transferable skills, and a strong sense of values, ethics, and civic engagement. Whereas the traditional college classroom, especially general education courses focus on the passive transfer of information, my pedagogy encourages a community of learners to actively take information and make sense of it-- exercising a sociological imagination and information literacy skills to expand their personal boundaries of knowledge and awareness of social stratification. Students are involved in both academic and experiential learning. My students are co-owners in the process of knowledge creation, developing a collective truth and trust in one another through the mutual inquiry necessary for a lifetime of critical questioning. These alternative conversations lead to valuable knowledge through empathy-- beyond content-- to the language of human relationships, connectedness, and the importance of community.

One point I must make clear is that a philosophy of a liberal education is not conservative education (in the contemporary political sense), but rather an illiberal education. Liberal educations are appropriate for democratic systems of government which encourage questioning, whereas illiberal educations are appropriate for political systems which discourage independent thought, behavior, and self-governance. A liberal education reflects the freeing of a student's mind to be an active participant in their own education, as well as the education of their colleagues. This philosophy empowers the student to make learning outcomes their own, in partnership with my guidance and mentorship (as the instructor). Those who are liberally educated can be lifelong learners, assuming new jobs and careers that do not yet exist! I strive for each and every one of my students to be active, democratic citizens that are united in their commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As an instructor...

From my students...

  • By teaching with a Sociological Imagination, by conveying that everything is dependent on the lens through which we view the world, my students will see things that would otherwise remain invisible. ​

  • I aspire to provide an environment that is challenging, but support those who choose to take on this challenge. If I do not provide an environment for my students to be active learners, then it trivializes their investment of time and money. Further, if I provide my students with a challenging environment, it is necessary to be accompanied by resources that are attuned to the holistic needs of each individual student.​

  • I strive to have a classroom that is inclusive of the ways that people are both alike and different-- not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, language, culture, religion, mental and physical ability, class, and immigration status.​

    • This is achieved through the inclusion of diverse learning activities that consider all perspectives.​

    • Through this, I offer a capacity for connectedness: through collective truths, my students will learn that they share more in common than divide them. They will weave a complex web of connections between the Scientific Study of Society and their personal experiences.

  • Finally, I provide a space that is vulnerable and available for all students. I create the conditions necessary for a brave space where my students feel empowered to speak through their Sociological Lens and contribute to a community of learners. This is achieved through group-work in a hybrid setting.

    • Even more so, I emphasize in the classroom the voice of those who are missing from these conversations. This will prompt creative conflict not because our community is angry or hostile, but because conflict is required to better understand our biases and prejudices.​

  • I expect my students to understand the principles and theories of course content in a way that they can both apply sociology to their personal experiences, and vocalize their new stories in inquiry-based explorations and authentic assessment that take into consideration the diversity of learning pathways.

  • I expect them to complete independent activities that do not depend on an in-class setting, learning core knowledge about the theories and methods of social scientific inquiry as they apply. This allows the maximization of in-class discussion and activities; unpacking the core of the subject through higher-order thinking that benefits from collaboration and engagement.

    • Through completion of independent learning activities, as well as experiential learning opportunities, students will subscribe to liberal education as a philosophy of broad exposure.

  • Through this unpacking, I expect my students to find their voices and have them heard. To share authentic, diverse voices-- whether they speak in ways approved by others or not, as this is necessary to achieve a collective truth. I hope for my students to recognize that my respect for their stories is no more or less than my respect for the scholarly texts assigned to them.

Screenshot_2.png

Per the philosophy of a Liberal Education, I consider my students to be community members and provide opportunities for professional socialization accordingly. This includes office hours at locally-owned businesses, as well as rewarding civic activities.

Quiz%20Sidebar_edited.jpg
461-Bulletin-Board-Spot-2-January-2020 (
IMG-3681.JPG
WarmUp! (due 2359, night prior)

WarmUp! activities provide students with a base, shared level of knowledge of the subject so that they can prepare to understand their past experiences in a way that is subject-focused. As a performative assessment, they are clearly guided through a 'module' to complete before class along with the resources to do so. Students are held accountable for completion.

Screenshot_2.png
Screenshot_3.png
Evaluation through FTtC

FTtC, or First-to-the-Classroom, ensures that I have a consistent feedback loop between the students and myself before entering the classroom. Performance on these activities in the WarmUp! modules will tell me the current level of content understanding, and allow me to tailor that day's efforts accordingly.

Screenshot_3.png
CoolDown! (due 2359, day of)

After each class, students take the time for reflective journal entries that synthesize class discussion, reading, and their own personal experiences. They also receive two to three open exams that ask for documented problem solutions, using core concepts and the Sociological Imagination to explore their personal stories.

Screenshot_5.png
InTheClass! (50-75 minutes)

In the classroom, I provide opportunities for a sense of connectedness through traditional and experiential pedagogies. The structure of my classroom emphasizes learning and collaboration, rather than judging and competition, through the systematic gathering, analysis, and interpretation of evidence to determine how well student learning matches my expectations. Classroom activities, instead of representing terminal judgments, provide guidelines for learning.

Pencil and notepad
canvas.png

Examples of InTheClass! activities that I have used:

  • Discussion of relevant current events concerning the university, and how they may create a climate that trickles into classroom activities.

  • Personally-created activities, including (but not limited to)

    • Teaching spatial stratification with Geographic Information Systems​

    • Measuring access of female veterans to Veterans Health Administration facilities

  • Panel discussions on careers in Applied Sociology, challenges women face in the labor force, et al.

  • Inclusive activities, including (but not limited to)

    • Learning about microaggressions at a private Baptist university (Gilbertson, 2015)

    • Simulating the coming out process of a gay male at a private Baptist university (Poynter, 2017)​

    • Negotiating faith, religion, and LGBT identities (Kent, Poynter, and Sullivan, 2017)

  • TRAILS activities, including (but not limited to)​

    • Objects from everyday life: A can of Coca-Cola (Medley-Rath, 2016)​

    • Using the urinal game to teach sociological perspective (Paul, 2006)

    • The social construction of deviance (Ulrich, 2010)

  • Two weeks of curriculum from the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), developing Geographic Information Systems (GIS) skills and data literacy.​

    • Patterns of racial and socioeconomic stratification.​

    • Collection of the census count, including through the use of remote sensing.

  • Attendance at university research symposiums and guest lectures, reflection with course material

Applied Sociological Research

While traditional college coursework is constrained to the classroom, I must acknowledge that most of the students that I teach are not sociologists and will not take another sociological course in their undergraduate education. To help assist in the application of sociology to their career interests, I require experiential education-- learning and applying course material in a real-world, community setting. In Fall 2018, students participated in face-to-face data collection for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District. Students found that they were able to think with a sociological imagination, looking beyond oneself to understand how social forces are linked to individual health, health behaviors, and overall public health.

file-2.jpeg

My teaching philosophy is justified by the cyclical process of life passing through the land. Though we think of ourselves as disembodied, intricate computers that process data empirically and with great objectivity, we are not and rather live necessarily through frail, mortal bodies. These bodies, like the forage left after harvest, eventually return to ash and are reconstituted in new life that passes through the land. My students come to University wanting to know more about the forces that have made them, and want to find a way to leave their temporary mark on the world. I believe that the most important thing I can do is facilitate the capacity in my students to look beyond themselves. I aim for them to gain valuable knowledge and emphatic ability through the Science of Society-not just with data and logic, but through harnessing our shared language of relationships, of connectedness, and of community.

Teaching Resources
Past Syllabi

Introduction to Sociology (Fall 2018), Dept. of Sociology

Mapping Your Community (Summer 2017), University for Young People

Course Evaluations