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TEACHING STATEMENT

As an instructor, I emphasize the development of critical reading skills in my students – be this in relation to images, texts, spaces, events, or media systems. I encourage students to consider the historical and socio-cultural contexts of the cultural artifacts that they encounter each day, and seek to situate these within theories of visual culture, discourse, and cultural production.

Over the past 8 years I have been engaged in interdisciplinary teaching and research in the fields of communication and media studies, English and cultural studies, gender studies, and humour studies. I have taught undergraduate courses in a wide range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary environments including:  Communication Studies, Media Studies, Sociology, French immersion, English Language and Literature, and English as a Second Language.

In undergraduate teaching, my primary teaching objective is always to develop critical thinking, interpretation, and writing skills, regardless of the subject matter or discipline in which I am working. In short, my classes do more than require the memorization and repetition of course material; rather, they emphasize the development of transferable skills and the understanding of knowledge creation.

 

Teaching Philosophy

In all of my undergraduate teaching, from first to fourth year, I aim to instill an interest in knowledge acquisition as well as an ability to engage in critical thought. I prioritize the discussion of events and issues in my classes, and attempt to organize writing assignments around the development of critical reasoning. My own research in the areas of popular media, cultural practices, and the creative economy offers a useful perspective for the introduction of students to complex issues such as civil society, social relations, and the complex field of intercultural communication (both verbal and non-verbal). I find using familiar culture, such as popular media, as a teaching method to be useful, as student familiarity and engagement with this subject matter is frequently heightened. Regardless of the course topic, rooting some element of the course material in the everyday lives and experiences of students is an important element of my teaching strategy.

Teaching students in an interdisciplinary environment, and preparing them for careers in complex and rapidly changing fields, is probably one of the most rewarding tasks available to an undergraduate instructor. I always seek to empower students to understand how knowledge is produced and how different disciplines are framed, developed, and reinforced through the particular structures and discourses of their fields. I generally try to develop course assignments around the acquisition of writing skills, especially the ability to alter the voice and style of written work according to the discipline and/or audience for which it is being prepared. This includes an emphasis not only on scholarly research and writing, but also writing for more popular publics and industries.

My teaching style involves taking account of student learning needs, and gauging my own facilitation of their learning according to these requirements. In general, the level of facilitation required for the enabling of students to grow as learners varies greatly between classes and individual students. I have found that students enter university as dependent learners; that is they require high degrees of facilitation in their learning. Ideally students will leave a four-year degree having become self-directed learners. This journey towards greater self-direction, where students are empowered to define their own learning objectives and work towards them, is a major consideration is my course design.

Through an engagement with the complexity and playfulness of meaning making, students in my courses are encouraged to realize that there are no easy, obvious or simple answers. Through the study of media and culture, my hope is not only to develop students’ critical writing and comprehension skills, but also, by drawing links between theory and practice, to engage students in a dialogue about what it means to live and participate fully in a particular socio-cultural context, at a particular time.

 

Experience and Training

Over the past several years, I have had the opportunity to teach in a variety of educational institutions. This has given me the opportunity to put my teaching philosophy into practice, to test new approaches to teaching and learning, and to develop a strong sense of my own values as an instructor. To this end, I have also participated in teacher training and workshops whenever possible. Below I provide a description of some of my recent teaching appointments, as well as an overview of my teaching and learning development.

Teaching

English: Introduction to Academic Writing – University of Waterloo (Fall 2013 to present)
I currently teach academic writing to first year undergraduates online, in lecture, and in seminar formats. I am responsible for the training and supervision go 17 graduate teaching assistants. My class enrollment across three sections (online, lecture, and seminar formats) is approximately 600 undergraduate students from a range of disciplines including Arts, Math, and Health Sciences (these include maternal and second language users of English).

Media Studies: History of Communication – University of Guelph-Humber (Fall 2012)
In this course, I was responsible for teaching two sections of this Media Studies elective to 2nd year undergraduates (120 students total). This course traced the history of human communication from pre-writing societies to the present information age. My emphasis throughout the term was on the social impacts of various communications technologies, how they relate to the societies that have produced them, and how tensions between oral, visual, and written communications have shaped our current “information age.” I designed all aspects of the course including materials, assignments, and format. I implemented student-driven learning exercises whenever possible. Generally, the 2 hour and 45 minute classes were divided into student presentations, a 1-hour lecture, a small group activity or individual writing exercise, and a discussion.

ESL and FSL – Université Sainte-Anne (Fall 2010-Spring 2011)
I was employed as a second language instructor at Université Sainte-Anne in a variety of contexts during this period. I taught one-on-one English as a Second Language classes both online and over the telephone for French-speaking Government of Canada employees who were required to pass language proficiency exams. My students included an Officer with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and a Registered Nurse employed in a women’s prison. Effective teaching entailed learning about their everyday work lives in order to provide vocabulary of relevance to their work situations. I also worked at an intensive French immersion programme where I acted as a youth counselor and offered an art workshop as part of the school’s mandate to promote language acquisition through fun activities.

Communication: Media, Sport, and Popular Culture – Simon Fraser University (Spring 2010)
I co-taught this course with my colleague Dr. Sara Grimes, splitting lectures and seminar-style tutorials evenly across the term. This was my first co-teaching experience, and I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to participate in further teaching collaboration of this kind. The objective of this course was to critically examine the changing relationship between sports and the media within western popular cultures. Course  discussions touched upon a wide range of issues and theoretical approaches, with examples drawn from a variety of sports and sporting practices. Assignments included an ethnographic field study, a literature review, a seminar presentation, a term paper, a mid-term, and a final exam.

Communication: Effective Communication – Simon Fraser University (Fall 2009)
In this course, I focused primarily on the development of writing skills. Course assignments introduced students to a range of writing “voices” and made them more aware of the importance of selecting the appropriate style for their intended public. This was a professional communication course for which students prepared editorials, backgrounders, and reports; students were expected to alter their style and approach for each document depending upon its intended use and audience. This course was designed to encourage peer-to-peer learning and community collaboration. Students engaged in the editing of one another’s written work, evaluated group presentations, and developed a communication plan and communications materials for a local non-profit organization of their choice. This community integrated assignment was very effective and particularly popular with students.

Skill Development

Whenever possible, I have participated in teaching development activities. I have completed a course design workshop, a variety of instructional skills seminars, and a training class for writing intensive learning – a programme used at Simon Fraser University for courses where students are expected to learn through the process of writing, editing, and re-writing. While at Simon Fraser University, I was also a member of a working group for the University Task Force on Teaching and Learning. Our mandate was to prepare recommendations for the restructuring of teaching and learning as it related to all departments at the university.

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