Education is one of the greatest responsibilities in society. As teachers, we are responsible for the inheritance of specialized knowledge across generations. We train students to explore, question, and make discoveries; these are the basic cognitive tools that keep civilizations from going extinct. Through my years as a student, professional and educator, I have identified what I believe are three fundamental principles of effective teaching and learning.
- Our job is to transform students into colleagues
The primary responsibility of a teacher includes, but transcends, the development of technical skills valued across professions; it involves helping a student grow into a confident, responsible, intellectually curious citizen, someone prepared to engage others in the process of discovery. To accomplish that, we must encourage and respect questions, offer feedback, and provide the sort of freedom that develops mutual confidence. Active learning through small group discussion, clarification of material and getting students to explain material in their own words contributes to both mastery and creativity. The best students are those who learn to teach themselves.
- Induced stress is conducive to learning
As educators, we all understand that you gain mastery over a subject when you are forced to teach it. Research on affective intelligence supports the claim that memory is enhanced under emotional pressure. Even in small study groups, student interaction and articulation of concepts is more conducive to retention than simply reading assigned materials. Students deserve the freedom to make mistakes, learn from them, and live with the consequences. They need to understand that expectations are high, that they need to bring it, and that as teachers we have faith that they are capable. Communicating expectations also requires that we, as educators, are honest about student potential. We may all be hard wired to learn, but exceptional intellect is rare.
- Learning should be dangerous to the status quo
A functional learning environment is far from dictatorial; at best it is a place of transformative empowerment. Intellectual heroes are inspiring, and we all remember teachers who have changed our lives. Students should learn about the heroes of our disciplines; personalizing our profession can help students gain confidence in the potential of their own ideas. Understanding the difficulties and hard work that influential figures have endured helps to bring our students into our learning communities and puts them in a position to be productive citizens, ready to provide solutions to a world that desperately needs them.
I teach the following courses on a regular basis:
Introduction to U.S. (and California) Government (POLS 112, POLS 202)
Political Participation (POLS 316)
Campaigns and Elections (POLS 317)
Voting Rights and Representation (POLS 445)
California Politics (POLS 375)
Quantitative Methods (POLS 560)
Democracy, Design and Public Policy (POLS 568)