In a Word Series baseball game, every pitch and swing matters. Teaching is like a World Series game for me: every sentence from me and my students does matter. At the end of lecture, or at the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs and down one run; I am finally able to bring the political science topic around the bases with a home run—it matters. When students smile with sincere understanding of my lecture’s thesis, it makes a difference. I had this experience while teaching Intro. to Social Science, American Government, Intro. to Political Science, Intro. to Public Policy, Sociology, Social Problems, History of the United States to 1865, Computer Literacy, and Introduction to Computers at the college level (I have about 100 credit hours experience).
I would like to teach, and I am qualified to teach: American Government, American Political Development / Thought / Theory / Culture, Congress, Presidency, Institutions, Courts, Media and Politics, Campaigns in the U.S., Introduction to Philosophy / Social Sciences / Political Science / Public Policy / Comparative Politics, and Statistics for Political Science Majors.
Even though I received my Master of Arts in Teaching in 2005, I am still working towards becoming a master teacher. At a rural community college (2006-2009), I quickly learned that elderly displaced workers with an 8th grade education didn’t know how to open a Word document, let alone research for a five page essay. At an urban university with no admission standards, I quickly learned that some young students had less than an 8th grade level of training. I believe that the teacher must attempt to reach the least educated students in the classroom, while simultaneously holding a high threshold for academic success and learning. I have spent many years finding ways to accomplish this challenge.
At Wayne State, how could I raise the reading level of 30 students while encouraging advanced and life-long learning for the other 40 students? In short, I often create reading exercises for the students that reinforce reading and critical thinking skills, which is integral to my lecture. For the second and third class sessions of my American government class (Fall 2012), for instance, I downloaded the DNC and RNC 2012 party platforms and divided each platform into 35 sections—I created 35 excerpts as 35 handout pages. Students had a few minutes to read the half page excerpt and answer: What is the main point of the excerpt? Whose political attitude or social demographic should this content appeal to? Why? How do you think the other party would try to sway this person’s opinion? I believe that a master teacher engages students in critical thinking.
Professors should utilize activities which create collaboration between students in the classroom. Considering the RNC /DNC handout, I had students collaborate with the other person in class who read and wrote on the same excerpt. Together, they formed a group answer. In order to address diversity, professors should breakdown classroom barriers with cooperative learning.
My lecture is always themed. For example, considering the RNC / DNC handout, I orchestrated particular groups to read his or her answer from a unique part of the party platform—like the DNC being for Gay Rights in 2012 or the RNC being against abortion. The students were part of the discussion and attentive to other students, since their answers were salient to my lecture and to their political lives. My theme was: Are there any differences between the political parties, and why should that matter to you?
I believe that I must provide an equitable opportunity for all students to succeed. Education research suggests that some people learn better with visuals, others by listening, and yet others learn best via hands-on experience. With my classroom exercises (hands-on) and PowerPoints (visual) and lecture (audio), I engage “differentiated instruction,” which means that I have given all types of learners the chance to actually learn. A master teacher must address learning diversity in the classroom.
For a class of 70 students, I test student learning in two basic forms. First, I give weekly online quizzes about the material and class lecture. Second, I require 5 page essays based on field application or research. For example, in my Intro. to Public Policy course (Summer 2013), students were required to complete a “policy analysis” paper and a research paper. I often began lecture with a 5-10 minute discussion on how to succeed, given my unambiguous grading rubric. The policy analysis was a hands-on analysis of a topic chosen by the student (e.g., Asian Carp in the Great Lakes, Higher Education Tuition) which defined the problem, solution, and determined how interest groups were engaged in agenda setting and policy formation. As a teacher, I believe that it is vitally important that students know how they will be evaluated. My rubrics are a guide to success (i.e. authentic assessment). Teachers should teach in order to develop student success.
In brief, I believe that a student-centered teacher will initiate differentiated instruction, cooperative learning, and authentic assessment. I assert that lectures can be interactive (using primary resources), so that undergraduates become more involved—in class—with primary source material. Indeed, graduate students also benefit from differentiated instruction, cooperative learning, and authentic assessment.
In my classroom, ideas move around like a baseball in a world-series game. And many of times, it’s a student who hit the game winning home run.
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