Teaching Statement

I see teaching and research as complementary. Teaching nurtures research with a reminder of the overall frame within which it resides, and that the findings need to be accessible to undergraduate students. Research nurtures teaching by keeping it fresh, imbuing it with the excitement of discovery.

I have participated in the Indiana University Sociology graduate program’s strong teaching component. This program, which won the ASA’s Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award in 2001, includes coursework on teaching, assistantships in which students help faculty teach courses, and frequent workshops from the Preparing Future Faculty program. In addition, I have participated in the Faculty Learning Community of the University of Connecticut’s Institute for Teaching and Learning.

To date I have developed and taught four different classes: Introduction to Sociology, Sociology of Religion, Work and Occupations, and Social Problems. I will also teach a course in Social Psychology in the summer of 2004. I am prepared to develop and teach courses in research methods, statistics, social theory, complex organizations, and sociology of culture. I have taught in formats ranging from intimate seminars with 8 students to large lectures with over 200 students.

My primary teaching goal is for students to learn to apply the principles of sociology to their own experience and to recognize the value of the sociological understandings in their lives. I ask students to so a significant amount of writing in my classes, even in large introductory courses. Each class requires structured essays in which students apply lecture and discussion topics to their life experiences. In addition, each class includes term papers which apply theory covered in course material to topics that most interest them. As an example, my Introduction to Sociology class has an option of analyzing two fiction books of their choice using relevant theories covered in the textbook. In another example, I offer students in all classes the option of writing ethnographic papers which involves volunteering at local service agencies and using their data as examples of course material. I also try innovative approaches to material that students generally consider dry. My religion class has a create-a-religion project where I assign futuristic scenarios which emphasize different functions of religion and have student teams design a religious organization while accounting for issues discussed in class such as resource mobilization, plausibility, and the dilemmas of institutionalization.

I make extensive use of information technology in my classes. I have found computers to be invaluable in providing the personal attention that is critical to students for learning but virtually impossible with large classes. I offer an online forum to provide participation opportunities for students who would not ordinarily speak in a large class. This has resulted in excellent student exchanges over events such as elections, the war in Iraq, and the abortion debate. I have adjusted my class several times to accommodate issues that were brought up in the forum, most notably staging an in-class debate on affirmative action by students who were engaged in the forum. My Spring 2003 Introduction class had 5000 entries over the course of the semester. I also use computers for important documents such as syllabi, assignments, and handouts, and have students post field notes for other students to use in their papers.

In addition to large classes, I often work on individualized projects with undergraduate students. I have worked with several students on field research projects with the hope of collaborating on papers. I have also sponsored students for internships with local social service agencies.

In general I have received very good feedback from my students, both in the form of personal appreciations and formal student evaluations. Perhaps the best feedback was when a student asked me as she submitted her final exam what she would need to do to help me with my research. I include summary numerical ratings, but more detailed ratings and samples of narrative evaluations can be made available on request. In addition, access to my class website can be made available to provide a view of my class assignments, notes, and discussions in progress.

Summary of Quantitative Course Evaluations

Course Semester

students

Relevant statistic

 

Mean of 10 = outstanding

University of Connecticut

instructor

department

Sociology of Religion Fall 2003

55

8.8

8.3

Introduction to Sociology Fall 2003

198

7.9

8.4

Sociology of Religion Spring 2003

70

8.2

8.4

Introduction to Sociology Spring 2003

211

8.4

8.5

Introduction to Sociology Fall 2002

44

9.0

8.5

Introduction to Sociology Fall 2002

206

8.6

8.5

 

% ranking excellent or good

 

Indiana University

Instructor’s teaching effectiveness

Overall evaluation of the course

Religion and Society Spring 2002

70

71%

70%

Work and Occupations Spring 2002

65

51%

49%

Religion and Society Fall 2001

58

83%

78%

Introduction to Sociology Fall 2001

70

59%

70%

Religion and Society Summer 2001

15

100%

100%

Work and Occupations Summer 2001

8

100%

100%

Religion and Society Spring 2001

66

72%

65%

Introduction to Sociology Spring 2001

70

69%

64%

Religion and Society Fall 2000

68

69%

69%

Work and Occupations Summer 2000

15

63%

72%

Religion and Society Summer 2000

15

85%

93%

Religion and Society Spring 2000

62

74%

76%

Religion and Society Summer 1999

18

86%

86%

Introduction to Sociology Spring 1999

67

36%

45%

Introduction to Sociology Fall 1997

67

75%

78%

Introduction to Sociology Summer 1997

41

71%

68%

Indiana University response categories: Excellent, Good, Satisfactory, Below Average, Poor