As much as my classes rely on primary and secondary sources, they are built around my students and their experiences. Like other scholars, I help students obtain a specialized knowledge of events so that they can deepen the critical thinking skills that will serve them as tomorrow’s leaders. My students come away with the research skills to formulate and support an argument and the writing skills to articulate it in a persuasive fashion, but this only happens when they become invested in the material. I have been fortunate to teach in places as varied as Iowa, Illinois, California, and now Massachusettts, and each class has been filled with unique students with an impressive diversity of experiences in terms of ethnicity, socioeconomic background, and previous college preparation. As an educator, this diversity is my greatest asset, for the best classes are when students provide a mosaic of opinions, perspectives, and questions. It helps refine my pedagogical approach, and as is evidenced—in their positive course evaluations—it is clearly valuable for them too! Because I learn something new from each class, my style of teaching is constantly in the process of refinement, but I always start with what my students bring with them. Harnessing the diversity in each class means having to be ready for anything, and while I have core objectives for every class, my students thrive—I thrive!—when learning becomes reciprocal. Ultimately, it is my conviction that if I can pull the students in and get them interested in the past, they will attain the knowledge and skills that will allow them to improve the present and the future.
Connecting With Students is the Cornerstone to Effective Pedagogy