At St. Louis University I taught five undergraduate courses and two graduate courses. See below for course syllabi.
During the 2014-2015 school year, I served as an Innovative Teaching Fellow at the Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning at St. Louis University.
My teaching philosophy rests on certain assumptions. First, most of my students will not go on to be professional political scientists, but they are all already citizens. Second, the classroom is a place for the development of skills, not the delivery of content. Third, students are embedded in a system of knowledge production which they likely do not understand or perhaps even notice. Finally, students are looking for someone to confer credentials on them. Professors can either play into this dynamic or liberate them from it.
The first two assumptions are related. Because I do not expect my students to become political scientists, I focus on the development of skills that serve them in their life as citizens. I emphasize the importance of the development of a habit of reading the news (and I have the pop quizzes to prove it). I teach students to be active and critical consumers of news media, to look for biases in coverage, and to recognize good quality journalism. I also teach critical reading of academic texts to introductory students (see syllabi for Introduction to Political Science and Introduction to Comparative Politics below). This frees me to focus on the development of critical writing skills in upper division courses (see syllabi for The Arab Uprisings and Authoritarianism below). I structure courses to assure that students leave these upper-division courses with a strong writing sample for future graduate school applications.
I have also recently begun implementing more assignments related to critical public speaking skills. See my Gender and Islam graduate class for an example. It is my impression that the liberal arts have emphasized writing to the detriment of speaking as a skill needed in the "real world." Given that many students will have to interview for positions, and may find themselves "interviewing" in unexpected locations such as elevators and cocktail parties, I have decided to focus on speaking in my upper-division and graduate courses. I want students to realize that they are being judged in unexpected settings by the way that they present themselves and I think the classroom can be a safe space for exploring and refining one's public persona.
Third, I challenge students to become aware of the industry of knowledge production that surrounds them. The class which most directly captures this dynamic is my Politics of the Middle East and North Africa class, (syllabus below). Building on their understanding of the role of news media in reporting "facts," I ask students to read a non-Western news source for the semester. This assignment teaches students to see how saturated American news coverage is with American national security interests. I also teach students about how scholars design their own research projects and I highlight the role of government funding in shaping research agendas. I ask students to design mock research proposals to help them understand this process. Additionally, I require students to explore the ways in which scholars are in conversations with one another. By assigning carefully structured annotated bibliographies, students learn to identify the main arguments of scholars and recognize scholarly conversations. Over the course of the semester, students become more critical consumers of journalism and scholarship, and are better prepared to engage with these public dialogues.
It is one thing to challenge students to recognize the industry of knowledge production, and it is quite another to call them to take an active part in it. I take the latter approach. I try to convince students to stop waiting for someone to declare them an expert on a subject, and challenge them to develop expertise through the creation and distribution of products to carefully cultivated audiences. In doing so, I call students to stop asking for permission to function as adults in society and to more actively create their own path forward. My Spring 2015 class, America in the Middle East, which was prepared as a part of my Innovative Teaching Fellowship, is the best example of this approach. Syllabus below.
One final point about my teaching philosophy: it is under constant revision. I end every course with a session titled "What I tried to accomplish in this class." I begin the class by presenting to students what my goals were when I began the course, how I tried to reach them, and how I evaluate my own leadership of the course. I then open the floor to discussion. I am consistently amazed at the quality of feedback that I receive from my students. They are keen observers of how a classroom should be run, and I make changes to all of my courses every semester in response to my own reflections and student feedback.