My personal teaching philosophy is, ultimately, to aid and direct students in their own quest for knowledge. I prefer to act primarily as a facilitator and less as a director. I believe that students learn best and most efficiently when the subject matter holds meaning for them, and when the content and format are relevant to their own interests. Although an educator can certainly stimulate some of this motivation, the thirst for knowledge must be quenched where and when it occurs. Stimulation is most effective when the teacher reacts sincerely to students’ interests and provides students with the tools and guidance to continue exploration on their own. Forcing content and format onto students that is disjointed from their interests will inevitably result in sub-optimal results.
Group settings such as within traditional college courses, of course, create compromises between individual interests and group needs. Here, the instructor has the difficult task of developing course syllabi which reflect both the general interests of the group, and employing formats which speak to individual students’ interests. In a professional school setting, for example, a guided analysis of public policies and composition of issue briefs may be more relevant to students’ needs than concentration on writing traditional academic papers; policy literature may be more appropriate than texts on the philosophy of science. A student-centered rather than instructor-led curriculum design not only makes content more digestible, but it also equips students with skills relevant to their professional goals.
In the end, most students pursuing a social science curriculum do so not for the purpose of pursuing an academic career, but rather to use an undergraduate degree in political science as a stepping-stone towards law school or policy jobs. Consequently, I feel it is a teacher’s mandate to ensure that students are equipped with those skills which would be necessary for their careers – namely, research and presentation skills.
My interests comprise a wide range of subjects in the areas of comparative politics, public policy, environmental politics, and transatlantic relations. These would include courses I am teaching on research methods, Western European politics and transatlantic relations at George Washington University as well as potential courses on environmental politics and policy, technology and the environment, regulatory politics, qualitative research methods, policy analysis, and political economy. At this point, I am prepared to teach four different courses:
- Scope and Methods of Political Science
- Comparative Politics of Western Europe
- Euro-Atlantic Relations
- Comparative Environmental Politics
I have teaching experience in both Germany and the United States. At the University of Potsdam, I was among the first cohort of advanced students trained to serve as tutors to incoming students. In this capacity, I taught essential academic survival skills to first-semester students, including library and online research, time management, in-class presentations, analytic reading, paper writing, note-taking, and study strategies. Teaching experience at the University of Maryland included a combination of content and “soft skills.” Courses I have taught include two sections of a course on U.S. and international environmental policy in Fall 1999 as a teaching assistant; and guidance offered to a group of students involved in the ICONS project (International Communication and Negotiation Simulation) in Spring 2000. During the 2002/03 academic year, I oversaw student group research projects on the role of culture and identity in various settings.
As of Fall 2006, I am currently a lecturer at George Washington University. My Fall 2006 courses are Scope and Methods of Political Science and Comparative Politics of Western Europe. Both classes are attended primarily by Juniors and Seniors. In Spring 2007, I will teach the Scope and Methods class and European-Atlantic Relations.
My instructional training comes from the course which prepared me as a tutor at the University of Potsdam, and through a class on “Teaching Political Science” which was part of the curriculum at the University of Maryland.