Whether it's through teaching, presenting, or leading a workshop, I always like to keep Bloom's Taxonomy in mind. I consider the lesson successful when the intended audience is able to understand the topic, apply the concept, analyze the idea, reframe the argument, and formulate their own thoughts on the subject.
Teaching through a Sociological Lens:
My teaching philosophy focuses on four main goals. First, I work with students to help develop their unique sociological perspective. By developing this early on, the content, discussion, and overall learning objectives of the course will become more apparent. Second, with the help of the students’ social lens, I challenge students to think more critically about the course content. Third, I show students how the content connects with various societal levels, enhancing their critical thinking skills. And finally, I teach students to think broadly about the many diverse perspectives for which to frame the class content. Although this philosophy is discussed formulaically, I understand it to be extremely malleable. Not all students will reach each goal, whereas others might skip some. Additionally, this process functions as a cycle, as students will find new interests and new insights that will continually guide their learning.
Forming a Sociological Perspective
No matter one’s level of academic understanding, or number of years studying it, everyone remains a student of sociology. And, as lifetime-learners, each of us have developed our unique sociological perspectives. However, at the core of each perspective, I believe that there are several commonalities. First, in order to think sociologically, we have to understand sociology as a science. We use systematic means of analysis to develop theories, and collect empirical evidence. Second, we understand sociology as a social science, thereby analyzing how patterns of social understanding are created, maintained, and shared. And finally, sociology is a liberal art because we often study it with the help of history, literature, and philosophy.
In order to help students form a sociological perspective, I like to emphasize the diversity of social lenses in the classroom. These representations often come from movie and TV clips, guest presenters, student presentations, and panels of speakers. Additionally, I enjoy assigning work that allows the student to analyze their upbringing, their interactions with peers, their religiosity, etc. These introspections not only help students retain the material, but it also allows them to take trivial concepts and make them personal. For instance, one of my favorite assignments is the Sociological Autobiography. For this assignment, students cite the material from class as they analyze meaningful events of their childhood in order to provide evidence of socialization. This assignment allows students to practice research methods, as well as heighten their understanding of self in society.
Cultivating Critical Thinking
Sociological thought comes from the ability to think beyond and to challenge the status quo. In order to do this, students must be able to think critically about their values, beliefs, and environment. As a teacher, it is my job to provide an atmosphere in which students feel safe exploring their intellectual freedom. I enjoy letting the students know that I am also a student of sociology, and even if I have been studying it longer, that I am still learning and exploring new ideas every day. During lectures I consistently remind students to ask questions and share stories that are relatable. I have found that when a student applies a topic to their own life, it reinforces that concept both for the student, and the classmates. For this reason, I encourage as much sharing as possible through the use of full class and small group discussions.
Creating a Challenging and Inspiring Environment
I work to help students develop their abilities to succeed both academically, and in their lives outside of school. I challenge students to become better writers by gradually increasing the writing demands of the course, and providing detailed comments on each paper. I also challenge students to become better thinkers by encouraging creative topics for discussion and writing assignments. I believe that when students are able to write about something that they are passionate about, they become more invested in the assignment and in the class. I realize that I cannot expect students to take on challenges if I do not challenge myself. So, even though I am infamous for being terrible with names, I take on the challenge of learning the students’ names within two weeks.
I have also found that students tend to enjoy being challenged by people that inspire them. So, as a teacher I work hard to inspire students by creating relationships that show them I genuinely care about their wellbeing and success. I actively communicate with students through email, phone, and discussion boards. I also have an open-door policy while I’m in my office alone. Additionally, I have found that extracurricular opportunities are important places to enhance the learning experience, so I tend to be involved with campus activities including advising clubs. Moreover, I like to take the time during mid-terms to meet with as many of the upper-class students as possible to discuss how things are progressing for them, and if they have any questions about pursuing careers or graduate study. I simply do not want students to feel that they are blindly moving through their academic lives.
Embracing Diversity and Solving Social Problems
Diversity was one of the founding motivators that helped begin my sociology career. Diversity is at the core of what I teach, how I teach, and why I teach. The topics and materials I choose for the classroom are intended to create discussion of social justice, economic inequality, oppression, stereotyping, prejudice, social mores, power, status, and the vast amount of diversity existing within each of these. I choose to teach in a manner that encourages students to share their thoughts so that we might learn from one another. And finally, I teach because diversity needs to be discussed more openly, and students deserve to be taught in a way that challenges their notions of sameness versus the other.
While I was teaching the course “Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Inequality,” I would often have small group discussions where students would be challenged to solve one social problem that they have witnessed either on their own, or on the news. The problems ranged from bullying to world hunger, and the groups would make action plans of possible solutions. After each group had shared their idea with the class, we would discuss what each plan had in common, and students realized that each plan had one crucial component: people of different backgrounds working together. On a course evaluation, one student wrote, “I really enjoyed the learning opportunities we had in this class. I was able to learn about other groups of individuals who may be different from me in many aspects but at the same time share a very similar way of life.” Altogether, by the end of their courses, it is not an expectation that every student agrees with one another, or even with me. However, I do want students to be able to respect diversity from an educated, sociological point-of-view.
Master of Arts in Sociology from Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, 2016
"Although teaching and conducting research are the dominant pursuits of sociologists' employment, sociologists embark upon literally hundreds of career paths. Their roles in other fields are increasing in number and significance—some sociologists work closely with economists, political scientists, anthropologists, psychologists, social workers, and others, reflecting a growing appreciation of sociology's valuable contributions to many different disciplines."
Bachalor of Arts in Sociology and Psychology from Manchester University, North Manchester, Indiana, 2014
"As a science, sociology seeks to understand and explain the social world through systematic, critical thinking and the application of empirical methods.
As a social science, sociology seeks to understand and explain how we create and maintain shared patterns of thought, belief, judgment, and behavior, and how we are in turn shaped and constrained by those patterns.
As a liberal art, the sociological perspective reminds us that values are embodied in and transmitted through social structures that express and encourage the realization of the social justice and peace."