In sociology, we spend a lot of time discussing and dissecting reasons and consequences of social inequality. My mission as an educator does not stop with my students’ mastery of the content of the class. I am pushing for more. I want my students to apply sociological concepts to understand and to solve real world problems. My students ought to become active and well-informed citizens and community leaders.
To achieve that, I strive to broaden students’ horizon and to deepen their critical thinking skills. The road to success starts with an inclusive syllabus that represents authors from different gender, racial and ethnic backgrounds. I will not compose a specific ‘minority’ or ‘gender’ week, but rather have a syllabus that overall reflects more than just the White Middle-Class American narrative.
I encourage students to question everything, but they must use factual and theoretical evidence from a respectable academic source to back up their ideas. I am a proponent of the student-centered approach, hence my role in the classroom switches back and forth from a formal lecturer, to a discussion moderator. I employ various strategies – lectures, visual media, interactive individual and small group exercises and classroom discussions – to accommodate different learners.
I couple carefully selected diverse readings with hands-on exercises to engage students in every step of the learning process. For example, I would use an in-class experiment to demonstrate how prejudice arises; organize a debate for students to get familiar with arguments of both sides regarding affirmative action policies; or ask to conduct a content analysis of a Disney movie to see what messages are being send to viewers of different genders.
I am accessible to students after class during office hours and via email, which ensures that the learning does not stop when students exit my class.
I use a cumulative grading system to assess students’ learning outcomes. Their final grade depends on their level of engagement in the classroom (participation), on their content mastery (tests and the final exam), and abilities to apply theoretical concepts to real-world challenges (papers and projects). I also use reflective writing exercises and student feedback throughout semester to informally assess their learning process, prevent future crises, and to adapt my teaching style to the environment of a specific class or cohort.
In conclusion, my classroom is a place where diverse academic discovery happens, where students’ views are challenged by the facts grounded in theory and rigorous research, and where theoretical knowledge gets transformed into concrete future action plans.