My overall approach to teaching is rooted in the belief that communication classes are distinct because communication is the key to how our world functions. Thus, my teaching is guided by the following tenets: enriched-relevant curriculum, organized and respectful classroom environment, and positive teacher-student relationship.
1) Enriched-Relevant Curriculum
First, I seek to integrate theory and practice as well as contemporary issues into my classroom in order to demonstrate the course’s objectives and applicability to students’ lives. For example, when teaching health communication, I encompass my own research on patient-provider communication in cancer care as well as require students to interview providers themselves to learn how to better communicate in medical encounters. We also talk about current issues like the Affordable Health Care Act, Angelina Jolie’s 2013 The New York Times health announcement, and the recent Ebola crisis in Africa.
2) Organized, Engaged, & Respectful Classroom Environment
Second, to cultivate such an environment, I emphasize peer interaction. By providing opportunities for group work, I have found we build a “learning community” through working, encouraging, and pushing one another. Whether attending an upper-level 30-person class or a freshman large lecture, my students engage in small and large groups discussions, personal self-reflections, and think-pair-share activities. My students know that this is not a class where they can sit back and just simply take notes, they must be engaged and participating in a variety of different ways. And they love it! Each semester I receive many emails praising this teaching style because they aren’t bored and feel like I care about their learning.
3) Positive Teacher-Student Relationship
Third, I have found that when I demonstrate that I care about the students and their success, it encourages them to work harder and even seek help outside of the classroom. For example, I keep note cards for each of my students with their names, majors, years, and other things they share with their classmates or me throughout the semester. Doing this helps me tailor my comments on their presentations and papers as well as helps me bring up students’ own experiences during lectures and discussions. Also, I work very hard to learn my students names…and quickly. Finally, I support my students outside the classroom in their career and life goals. Each semester I write several letters of recommendation. When students ask me to write them a letter, they seem to always preface it with: “I’m asking you because I feel like you are the professor who knows me best.” Why? Because I work hard to get to know my students throughout the semester as well as keep in touch even after the semester ends.