My teaching philosophy is informed by a childhood spent learning and practicing in groups with my peers. Whether we were writing, drawing, or programming computers, we were all teachers and learners together. When I read Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, I saw these experiences reflected in Freire’s ‘problem-posing education’ as a solution to the ‘transactional model’ — in short, the idea that a teacher is not an expert depositing information into passive receptacles, but a co-learner studying and growing alongside their students. This is the attitude that characterizes my teaching, and I strive to bring it into every classroom I help lead.
The majority of my teaching experiences have come through teaching Social Psychology and Introduction to Research Methods. In Social Psychology, we talked a lot about famous studies, their findings, and how to translate research into the real world. In Research Methods, we continued this discussion but also reflected on our perspectives and processes of meaning-making. For both classes, there was content that I needed to cover and assignments that needed to be graded — but as I gained more experience in the classroom, student learning became less about memorization and grades. Instead, it became about helping students connect content to things they cared for, and empowering them to use their knowledge instead of just carrying it around.
In hindsight, this was sometimes accomplished through my excitement for psychology, research, and inequality, judging by comments in evaluations
that I was ‘quirky’ or passionate in class. Sometimes this was accomplished by pulling up a chair and helping troubleshoot errors or make sense of statistical output. Most of the time, however, I believe I accomplished this by taking a step back and letting students talk. Whether it was pressing social issues like climate change or police brutality, or passion for video games and television shows, students brought their own excitement and motivation to the classroom. As Freire found before me, I didn’t need to prod them along or cram knowledge in — all I had to do was support them in the goals they brought with them, and the learning happened as a matter of course.
I love teaching, and I love research, and I see the two as similar at heart. Empowering students to answer questions scientifically can either by research or teaching; similarly, sharing empirical knowledge with real-world audiences can be teaching or research. As I enter the job market, I plan to seek a position that lets me practice both. I would love to gain more experience in leading classes like Cognition and Learning, Developmental Psychology, and Social Psychology — but I’m also enthusiastic about methods classes and service learning opportunities. I have experience with course development and student mentorship, and I’m eager to continue both as a PhD. Overall, however, I want to keep meeting and talking to students. Through them, I believe I have learned more about people, and the world, than in any of the many classes I’ve taken before.