"Critical pedagogy is a journey, not a destination."
(Fassett & Warren, 2007, p. 27)
As a teacher with a passion for knowledge, education, diversity, and inclusive leadership, it is my goal to create classroom environments that foster meaningful learning experiences for all students enrolled in my classes, empower students to reflect on the worlds they are a part of, and encourage students to apply the course concepts and skills to address social problems. I am a critical educator who views learning as a continuous process that transcends both the physical and temporal limits of the classroom. That is why I conceptualize learning as a journey, not a destination.
Learning is a journey that leads to meaningful experiences. My classes rely heavily on active and experiential learning to engage students. I rarely lecture for more than fifteen minutes at a time, but rather make use of interactive activities and discussions to teach concepts and achieve course objectives. For instance, when teaching relational development and maintenance theories, I ask students to create their own fictitious online dating profiles and use strategies of uncertainty reduction to get to know each other. And in a class session on gender norms, I have invited local drag queens to talk about how they perform gender. The teaching activities and assignments I develop to create learning experiences are regularly featured as part of the Great Ideas for Teaching Students (G.I.F.T.S.) sessions at regional and national conferences. In addition, students frequently rank me among the top ten percent of teachers they have had and often praise my use of creative and interactive activities in their course evaluations.
Learning is a journey that empowers students to reflect on the worlds they are a part of. It is central to my teaching to show students how the concepts covered in class relate to their everyday lives outside of the classroom. I frequently make use of popular culture and technology to guide students in a process of continued reflection. For instance, in class sessions on critical approaches to sport I ask students to deconstruct and critique how ESPN: The Body Issue portrays athletes in terms of gender, race, sexuality, and other identity markers. And in a class session on gendered language, I prompt students to analyze the posts of athletes they are following on social media to deconstruct the gendered language these athletes are using in their everyday lives. By relating course content to their own lives, I encourage students to not only critically reflect on their identities, experiences, and worldviews, but also to assess how their lived experiences have been shaped by hegemonic forces (see my sample syllabi for examples).
Learning is a journey that relies on intersections between teaching, research, and service to benefit the community. I do not view research, service, and teaching as completely separable domains. Rather, my research and service activities inform my teaching (and vice versa). From 2015 to 2017, I was part of a faculty learning community on community-based learning. As part of this learning community, I have served as a supervisor for community-based learning projects and internships for which undergraduate and graduate students worked with “We Are One Team,” a campus-wide initiative I founded to promote diversity and inclusion through sport at the university and in the Bowling Green community, in a variety of capacities. The problems students worked on as part of these projects range from gender inequality and LGBTQ issues in sport to issues of disability and body image. For instance, for one such project I worked with undergraduate and graduate students to launch a speaker series focused on sport and social justice. And for a different project, I supervised students in the development of a social media campaign that allows members of the BGSU and Bowling Green community to share messages of acceptance and inclusion. By providing a platform for community-based learning experiences, I am encouraging students to apply the concepts covered in class to real-world problems and situations. My work on these projects reflects my desire to create learning experiences that benefit my students, the university, and our community.
Learning is a journey that enables students to address and solve social problems. As communication scholars, we have a powerful platform to advocate for ethical and inclusive communication through our work in the classroom. As an international scholar-teacher, it is particularly important to me to draw from my research on the communication of identities and social justice in sport to promote ethical and inclusive leadership that allows students to eliminate social inequalities. For instance, in many of my courses I ask students to develop advocacy projects that require them to use concepts covered in class to address social problems in society. One such project is the “group advocacy project” I created for a communication and sport course I am scheduled to teach this coming spring semester. For this assignment, students create an ESPN 30 for 30 podcast that reflects on a social issue covered in class. In a second assignment component, students then develop a proposal for an advocacy project that addresses the problem previously identified, provides a suggestion on how to solve that problem, and can be featured as part of the programming for the “We Are One Team” initiative.
Learning never ends – neither for me as an educator nor for the students I have taught throughout the years. To provide life-long learning experiences for my students, my pedagogical strategies aim at teaching communication concepts, theories, issues, and skills to students in ways that will remain with them long after they have taken my class. I often emphasize that finishing one of my classes should not be the end of their learning experience, but rather the start of a process of life-long learning about the topics covered in class. Like myself, I want my students to realize that learning is a journey – and never a destination.