As an educator, I am invested in developing dynamic classrooms utilizing creative pedagogy that inspires student engagement. I believe that the most effective and productive approach to learning is collaborative. In each class, I strive to generate a learning community where students, working together, are inspired to take ownership of the assigned materials and class topics.
I often begin class with some lecture style teaching that distills and synthesizes from the assigned texts. After working with students to form a solid foundation, I encourage them to work either as small groups or as a large group to explore what they are learning in new and synergetic ways. This approach also allows me to gauge students’ levels of comprehension of the texts and material based on what develops during discussion. As a result, my class time tends to be flexibly structured to allow me 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 communications studies entitled “Digital Media and Religion,” I encouraged active learning by facilitating activities that prompted students to get up, move, and collaboratively create something together. For example, when we discussed the role of the typewriter in early digital technology, I had students divide into small groups and type questions and responses to each other on an actual typewriter. I also consistently made use of the white board asking students to work together 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 were inspired to take photos of their work so that they could carry the ideas and connections they had 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 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 teaching styles and tools, I approach both teaching and learning in a multifaceted way. My approach is intended to encourage growth and development in students by presenting and responding to a variety of learning styles while promoting a deeper comprehension of class topics.