Philosophy of Teaching & Courses Taught

What I have been proposing is a profound respect for the cultural identity of students, a cultural identity that implies respect for the language of the other, the color of the other, the gender of the other, the class of the other, the sexual orientation of the other, the intellectual capacity of the other; that implies the ability to stimulate the creativity of the other.  But these things take place in a social and historical context and not in pure air. Freire, 1997.

All people define situations as real; but when powerful people define situations as real, then they become real for everybody involved in their consequences.  Mehan, 1999

All education is political and no teacher is objective.  In keeping with Lorraine Code’s (1991) question, “From whose subjectivity does the ideal of objectivity come? (p. 70),” I identify my teaching agenda as changing the way students see themselves in relation to the world around them. I want to enable students to see more complexity in their social arrangements and to recognize themselves as positioned in dynamic relation to their social environment.  It is my hope that from this deeper vision will come more complex questions and accordingly, more complex analysis and courses of action. Thus my goals as a teacher are to help students develop the competencies of critical self-reflection, multicultural awareness, and interpersonal skills that may enable them to act against social injustice and promote greater inclusion in their lives and professions.

Understanding how sociopolitical power differentially shapes development builds a framework for our exploration.  We start with the self and move outward, rather than studying the “other”, a practice that objectifies others and reinforces a sense of neutrality and normalcy in members of dominant groups.  Using a feminist theoretical perspective, our emphasis is less on whether or not something is true, but rather on how the questions we ask function socio-politically.  This approach hones critical thinking skills and opens access to alternative discourses.

Given that the courses I teach primarily address power relations and ask students to locate themselves personally in these relations, I have found it critical to lay a firm and supportive framework for class discussions. Seeing myself as a facilitator as much as a teacher, I do not foster an environment in which students debate one another’s perspectives. Instead I use a set of behavioral guidelines that are designed to encourage dialogue.  I also address the emotional dimension of learning and promote the use of emotional responses as maps for self-awareness.  I have found that laying this groundwork enables us to challenge dominant discourses in ways that are most constructive for all.

We each view the world through the lenses of our multiple social locations, and I understand myself as personally engaged in a learning process alongside my students.  I strive to think and work collaboratively, utilize the resources of my colleagues, be open to new pedagogy and be willing to make mistakes in the pursuit of my growth as a teacher.  I have extensive experience teaching in diverse teams and find that team teaching is a very effective model, for it challenges instructors to: practice collaboration across different social locations; provides students with a wider range of perspectives and expertise and; calls upon teachers to model the values of multicultural practice. However, whether I am teaching alone or with a team, I strive to practice what I teach and utilize the classroom as a dynamic learning space for all.

Code, L. (1991).  What can she know?: Feminist theory and the construction of knowledge.  Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Freire, P. (1997).  Pedagogy of the Heart. New York: Seabury.

Mehan, H. (1999).  Oracular reasoning in a psychiatric exam: The resolution of conflict in language. In A Jaworski and N. Coupland (Eds).  The discourse reader.  London: Routledge.

Courses Taught

Multicultural Teaching
University of Washington. 1998 – 2007
Westfield State University. 2007-2014
Teach required courses in both the elementary and secondary cohort on theory, practice, and research in multicultural education in the Teacher Education Program.

Schools in American Culture
Westfield State University. 2007-2014
This course examines Education as a primary institution of social reproduction, and the role that teachers play with it.

Addressing Racism in Education
Westfield State University. Fall 2008
This class takes a sociological approach to the concept of racism within the U.S. and provides a theoretical framework for understanding racism, with a focus on racism in education.

Racism in the United States: Implications for Social Work Practice.
Smith College, Northampton, MA. 2008-2012
The nature and impact of racism is explored through historical, structural, intergroup and psychological perspectives.  Implications for social work practice is addressed.

Cultural Diversity & Social Justice.
Graduate School of Social Work, University of Washington.  Seattle, WA.  1998 – present
The overall aims of SocW504 & 404 are to have students: (a) explore the interplay of social and cultural identities, societal power relations, and other societal forces and (b) develop perspectives and approaches to working with and across differences, especially those based on social group memberships.

Building Advanced Skills for Engaged Community Practice
School of Social Work,  University of Washington. Winter 2007
This course complements the 504 course Social Work for Social Justice by continuing a more in-depth process of locating the self in a socio-political context.  The course employs a critically self-reflective, experiential and dialogic learning processes to engage students to explore personal meaning systems and narratives in the context of systems of unequal access to resources, power and privilege. Such exploration and involvement is intended to help students develop a strong foundation for critical self-reflection and liberatory engagement across socio-political and historical locations.

Qualitative Research Methods
School of Nursing, University of Washington.  Seattle, WA  Spring, 2006
Taught an interdisciplinary research methods course allowed students to translate philosophical and theoretical perspectives into research methodologies. Foci included: the relationship of theoretical perspectives to methodologies; the methodological issues among and between varying schools of thought (including contemporary empiricist, interpretive, and critical/postmodern); and how the methodologies influence choices of research design and methods.

Sociology of Human Sexuality
Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington, Tacoma.  Summer, 2005
Course explores the social dimension of sexuality and gender and the role that culture and its institutions play in shaping desire, practices, experiences, beliefs, and power relations.

Sociology of Gender
Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington, Tacoma.  Fall, 2005
Course explores and critiques a range of theoretical frameworks explaining gender inequality,  dominant discourses and representations of gender, and the role that culture and its institutions play in shaping desire, practices, experiences, beliefs, and power relations.

Facilitating Intergroup Dialogue
School of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.  2000-2003
Co-teach a two-quarter sequence, SW442-3: Intergroup Dialogue Facilitation.  This course provides BASW students with foundation knowledge and skills for working with diverse teams and small groups in educational settings. Students are trained to be peer facilitators of intergroup dialogues, which focus specifically on the group dynamics of social inequality related to issues including: race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, and religion.

Social Class Stratification
Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, University of Washington, Tacoma
Course examines the problem of persistent urban poverty in the United States. Explores the raced and gendered dimensions of poverty in the context of the major theories of class stratification. Also discusses the structural dimensions of poverty, how class location shapes perspectives and opportunities, and public policy implications.