Teaching Philosophy

Overview

My teaching philosophy amplifies the belief that classrooms are dynamic spaces for exchanging knowledge, exploring new concepts and theories, and developing critical thinking skills for current conversations in Communication, public humanities, and new media research. I position myself as a relationally-oriented instructor whose role is to create an open, interactive educational space where students can apply course concepts to build foundational lifelong learning skills that they can bring outside the classroom.

 

I follow the liberal arts tradition for a pedagogical praxis. There are many approaches to the liberal arts, but I turn to William Cronon’s emphasis on community and empathy. I believe an education that inculcates empathy in students prepares them to contribute positively to their communities. I approach designing syllabi and day-to-day classroom teaching as engagement with the broader community; what we teach and how we teach is carried by students into their communities. This interactive approach assists students with gaining understandings of multiple perspectives, embracing interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge-making, and active engagement in their learning. Therefore, as an educator, I am committed to connecting theory and practice by focusing on how cultural studies approaches to information and new media technologies at the interstices of race, disability, and health facilitates an understanding of social, economic, and political structures that support critical theoretical and applied humanistic learning.

Pedagogical Experiences

I have contributed to my department at McMaster University by teaching a variety of courses such as “Introduction to Communication Studies,” “Foundations in Communication Theory and Methods,” “History of Communication,” and “Communications Professionalization.” I have also taught “Public Speaking” as a Graduate Instructor of Record at the University of South Florida (USF). I also completed two professionalization courses in university-level instruction at McMaster University’s MacPherson Institute for Teaching and Learning.  I have experience working with two learning management systems (Canvas and Avenue to Learn). I committed to developing more inclusive and equity-informed pedagogical practices throughout my graduate teaching career. This is shown through my certifications in Title IX Mandatory Reporter Training and UndocuAlly Certification, a training program to support undocumented students (USF). I also received certification through Professor Hippo-on-Campus, a course for McMaster community members to better support mental health in the classroom. Finally, I have worked as an assistant curriculum director and public speaking coach at two summer high school institutes at George Mason University and The University of Texas at Austin, respectively.

Co-creating an Engaged Classroom

I usually begin my classes with a warm-up activity, such as “share your song of the week,” to motivate students to interact with each other and create a sense of community. As part of my teaching method, I design activities geared toward community-building, such as pedagogical games, role-playing, crafting of performances, dialogues, and storytelling in small groups. I believe an engaged and hands-on experience is the best way to learn. I strive to make the content in the class applicable as well as interactive. For instance, when teaching students about political economy of media, I bring in relevant examples from popular culture, such as breaking down the Disney media family, to help students understand how communication is situated within larger economic and ideological structures that influence cultural flows, both on and offline. As an instructor, I aim for my students to foster critical thinking skills about media and culture, from legacy institutions like film and television industries to social sharing platforms such as TikTok or Instagram.

As a teacher-scholar, I am committed to creating an engaged and collective classroom environment. I view education as a collaborative experience in which students and instructors contribute important insights and leadership into the classroom. I take cues from bell hooks and the disability justice performance collective Sins Invalid to integrate such approaches into my classroom. One way I address structural and economic barriers is by assigning course readings that are accessible to a wide range of students. For instance, this might look like assigning an open-access textbook that is economically accessible. Disability justice also shapes my facilitation of group discussions. I do not believe that verbal participation is the only form of participation, and establish guidelines for students who are more comfortable with non-verbal participation (e.g., active listening, note-taking) as strategies for taking part in the conversation. These choices demonstrate to students that there are many necessary roles when building a (classroom) community, and I have found that it supports their learning and progress in the course.

Theory and Application

My commitments to disability justice and creating collective access in the classroom are ultimately shaped by my experiences as a disabled student. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, one of my main goals as an instructor is to provide multiple options for student engagement and meeting students where they are. I aspire for my classroom to be a liberatory space where students feel comfortable engaging with new, unfamiliar ideas and concepts that might depart from what they already know. I also prioritize assigning scholarship by Black, brown, Indigenous, transnational, queer, trans, and disabled scholars, activists, and thinkers, including those positioned outside academic spaces. By learning, watching, and reading about different human experiences across the globe, I encourage my students to develop new paradigms against racism, ableism, ethnocentrism, and other networks of oppression.

I also consider ways students can critically apply theory to prepare them for post-graduate opportunities in non-profit, graduate, or corporate positions. For instance, following a lecture on social justice and media literacy, students were asked to submit a short video introducing topics like hashtag activism and health misinformation to a general audience. Students were tasked with writing a clear, succinct persuasive script and incorporating digital storytelling strategies like production and editing work. Such activities help obtain the necessary career preparation skills (content creation, digital communications, user experience), while applying anti-oppressive commitments. As an instructor with teaching experience in Tampa, FL, and Southern Ontario, I am committed to working with diverse student communities along with race, gender, sexuality, class, nationality, and disability status. Through these activities and lectures, I challenge students to decenter white, North American-centric ways of thinking about race, disability, and technology, and invite them to engage with alternative perspectives.

As a scholar of Communication, public humanities, and new media technologies, I try to instill in students a sense of critical inquiry about how sociotechnical values and cultural belonging simultaneously shape and are shaped by economic and ideological infrastructures. My utmost goal is that students see themselves as individuals belonging to an active community and, more importantly, as social actors and agents of change.