My approach to teaching is informed by my commitment to education as a collaborative enterprise best pursued through pedagogies that involve every student in the learning process. As an educator, I am invested in developing dynamic classrooms utilizing creative pedagogies that inspire student engagement–with me, assigned materials, and each other. As a result, I view each class as an opportunity to generate a learning community where students, working together, are inspired to take ownership of assigned materials and class topics through thoughtful and creative analysis.
In order to ground students in the assigned materials, I usually begin class with some lecture style teaching, often utilizing digital media resources. These “mini-lectures” are meant to provide context as well as distillations of key ideas from the assigned texts. When teaching on Islamic veiling practices in “Religions in America Today,” for example, I have developed PowerPoint and Prezi presentations to supply students with the necessary visual supplementations for a topic as material and sensory as veiling is. After working with students to form a solid foundation, I encourage them to collaborate either as small groups or as a large group to explore what they are learning in new and synergetic ways. This approach allows me to gauge students’ levels of comprehension of the texts and materials based on what develops during discussion. As a result, my class time tends to be flexibly structured to allow us to focus on topics from the assigned materials that students find relevant, challenging, or confusing.
While teaching a course cross-listed in both religious studies and communication studies entitled “Digital Media and Religion,” I encourage active learning by facilitating activities that prompt students to get up, move, and collaboratively create something together. For example, when we discuss the role of the typewriter in early digital technology, I have students divide into small groups and type discussion questions and responses to each other on an actual typewriter. I also consistently make use of the white board asking students to visualize class topics in new ways through the construction of timelines, Venn diagrams, and outlines. Many times, by the end of our class meeting, students are inspired to take photos of their work so that they can carry the ideas and connections they have developed with them–often utilizing the photos again to write their papers and prepare for their exams.
In recognition of my success in teaching at The University of Iowa, I received the Rev. Louis P. Penningroth Award for excellence in teaching and mentoring from the department of religious studies in 2018. My effectiveness in the classroom is also attested to by my course evaluations over the last eight semesters. Statistically, I am consistently rated above average both in terms of religious studies instructors as well as instructors in the college of liberal arts and sciences more broadly. One student from my “Digital Media and Religion” course commented: “This has been my favorite class so far! Each class we are presented with new ideas and ways in which to view the world. I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to both the instructor and my classmates’ ideas on the topics covered in class.”
By employing a wide range of educational styles and tools, I approach both teaching and learning in a multifaceted way that encourages growth and development in students by presenting and responding to a variety of learning styles while promoting a deeper comprehension of class topics.