Teaching Philosophy

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I am an experienced, effective instructor who has taught undergraduate and graduate students in both traditional and online classrooms. I have received institutional recognition for the innovation and creativity I use in the classroom as the Fall 2019 recipient of the Certificate for Teaching Excellence Award from Georgia State University’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). I have been the instructor of record for eight sections of undergraduate courses including American Government, Voting and Elections, and Political Research Methods. I am prepared to teach additional courses on women in politics, public opinion, political communications, and state politics and policy. I have exceptionally positive student evaluations, considering that I have almost exclusively taught required courses (see Table 1 in Summary of Student Evaluations). As a teaching assistant for graduate-level courses, I worked closely with our institution’s CETL to create video lectures and adaptive learning assessments for faculty teaching online graduate courses. I was also the lab instructor for all three quantitative methods courses in the political science doctoral program. I am broadly trained in a range of methodological approaches within OLS and MLE and would welcome the opportunity to teach introductory courses in these areas as well.

The diversity of my pedagogical training has inculcated a comprehensive teaching philosophy that consists of three primary goals: 1) accommodating individual learning styles with adaptive learning strategies; 2) encouraging critical-thinking through applied learning; and 3) promoting student achievement and professionalization by mentoring undergraduate research. I rely on these goals to deliver the benefits that every student should gain from a liberal arts education: namely, the requisite tools to excel in their careers and the knowledge needed to be engaged citizens. To achieve these goals, I have designed a variety of strategies and activities that emphasize student engagement across curricula.

My first pedagogical principle respects the notion that not all teaching strategies are created equal. As a teacher, I place a strong emphasis on multimodal teaching strategies and adaptive techniques as they both engage and benefit each student’s unique needs. For instance, in a typical lecture on public opinion, I would supplement a traditional lecture by showing a short video on political attitude-formation, moderating group discussion, and leading a kinesthetic simulation of Tversky and Kahneman’s (1981) classic framing experiment. When teaching American Government, I have required digital textbooks that utilize adaptive learning techniques, allowing students to synthesize material at their own pace. Effectively engaging students with multimodal strategies that integrate classroom activities with contemporary politics is one of the most recognizable comments I receive from students, even in super-section courses when one-on-one student interactions are more constrained:

“Very engaging despite class size. I was excited to learn in class because the instructor was very funny and applied class to our everyday lives. She went over all the material and had discussions in the class. I enjoyed her class.”

As a teaching assistant working closely with our institution’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), I received significant training on how to create digital and multimedia resources for traditional and online courses. This experience engendered a major appreciation for “flipped classroom” strategies. For example, I have created multiple video tutorials on how to perform data analysis using STATA which students watch prior to lab week. In this case, the “flipped classroom” model is utilized by requiring students to learn the basic programming structure of STATA at home, and at their own pace, while in-class activities are reserved for the application of empirical analysis.

My second pedagogical principle concerns the practice of applied learning in more detail, specifically as a means to cultivate critical-thinking students. One approach I consistently use to achieve this goal is critical writing assignments. In my American Government course, students incorporate class readings, lectures, and subjective reflections of their upbringing in a 1,000-word essay on their own political socialization and attitudes. This activity helps students understand and retain the more fundamental concepts of political science by integrating what is learned with what has been experienced.

In upper division courses, my students are routinely challenged to engage in critical thinking through written and oral assignments. For example, in my Voting and Elections class, I assigned each student as campaign manager for a congressional candidate running in the 2018 midterm election. In lieu of a traditional research paper, students created a Campaign Manager Portfolio which analyzed the characteristics of the election and appraised the candidate’s campaign strategy. Students have been overwhelmingly receptive to such assessments as evidenced by the affirmative student feedback I have received on course evaluations:

Instructor Kristina LaPlant did a great job making the course very interactive with creative in-class activities and also having a very positive and warm personality!”

gsaconMy final pedagogical principle centers on promoting student achievement and professionalization by mentoring undergraduate research. I have the greatest opportunity to exercise this goal when teaching Political Research Methods. In this course, students are required to build their own dataset, perform their own statistical analyses, and write a 15-20 page research paper. Recently, I worked closely with a former student to prepare a research paper she had submitted in my class for presentation at an academic conference. I have met frequently with many former students to revise the research papers they have submitted in my classes as writing samples for graduate and law school applications. Because this is a required course for political science majors, my expectations are high, but students frequently remark on my ability to simplify complex information:

“I loved your class. Being able to turn a hard and complex task of political research into one where it is both understandable/practical and enjoyable is something to be valued! I also appreciate your superb computer literacy which I find very refreshing. Your slides are very informative and well thought out. Thank you for a great semester!”

59800663_10157167625484380_5070415940416438272_n-2Outside the classroom, I am a devoted mentor to undergraduate and graduate students. I have supervised internships for several former students and continue to mentor some who have already graduated. I have a record of professional service as a discussant and chair for multiple undergraduate research panels for a variety of academic conferences. For the past five years, I have mentored undergraduate and graduate students at our Department’s annual Zoukis Summer Research Collaborative, a summer program which focuses on criminal and social justice issues. In a manuscript recently published in PS: Political Science & Politics, we detail the pedagogical approach and strategies used to merge teaching and research at the Zoukis Research CollaborativeLastly, as President of the Political Science Graduate Student Association at GSU, I spent a considerable amount of time organizing professional development seminars and pedagogical workshops to provide our graduate students with outstanding professional training.

Overall, I believe my experiences in the classroom and in the profession will be an asset to any university. I look forward to a faculty position where I can continue to utilize innovative pedagogical strategies, support student research, and contribute to the college community. I am most interested in teaching classes in research methodology, electoral behavior, women in politics, and American and state politics. I would also enjoy teaching graduate methodology courses and using my training to develop interactive online courses. I am eager to continue advancing my career as a professor who challenges students and creates rewarding opportunities for them.

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