Jennifer Hall, PhD

Associate Director, Center for Instructional Effectiveness

Teaching Philosophy

My primary role as a teacher is to challenge my students to approach our course subject matter critically and creatively. While I believe that understanding the fundamentals of our subject matter is important, I also believe we must encourage students to develop ways of understanding our subject matters in terms of their own life experience. If we neglect to show them the transferability of the information we provide, then, from their perspective, all they have done is memorize trivial information. When students are encouraged to build connections between their own experiences and their course subject matter, they are more likely to retain the materials covered in class and more likely to use the materials to help them understand the world around them. In my classrooms, I constantly seek to engage my students on multiple levels, through writing, multimedia, and discussion, and I try to create an environment where we work together to understand the texts that we’re examining and the relevance of those texts to the social systems we inhabit.

Many of my assignments encourage students to bridge the gap between what they are familiar with and what they read about our British Literature, World Literature, or Literary Studies courses, much of which seems alien and unapproachable to them. I try to design assignments that take forms they understand. For example, over the past year, I’ve been working to develop my brochure assignment. In this assignment, student combine scholarly research on a topic related to one of the works we have read, construct and annotated bibliography related to the topic, and condense their findings into a short informative document utilizing imagery to emphasize the ideas they are trying to present. Another example is my class blog where students comment daily on ideas related to reading. This semester, my class will be using iPads, so the blogging assignment will become more multimedia. We are playing with apps like Screen chomp to annotate works and building sections of a class textbook from scratch.

In addition to creating assignments that incorporate the familiar, I try to engage them by focusing on the evolutionary process of writing.   In my classes, we work on several small papers that they revise and build into a larger work, whether that be a full-fledged research essay, or a brochure, or final exam essay questions. As we progress through the semester, I encourage them to incorporate elements from each assignment into the next, with the ultimate goal of having them incorporate most of the ideas we’ve worked on throughout the semester. With these projects, I am teach them to see writing as a process that doesn’t just end with the first draft.

All students engage with subject matter differently, and I understand that some students benefit from guided discussion, so I do incorporate good, old fashioned lecture as part of my teaching method. However, as compelling as I may be as a lecturer (…sometimes…), lecture can distance students and creates an illusion of power that I feel disturbs the environment of personal investment that I try to create. To avoid adding an unnecessary element of distance, I try to divide my class into periods of lecture, periods of discussion, and periods of individual work. I also often utilize technology during my lectures to incorporate recordings, artwork, video clips, and other multi-media components to keep them focused and to spur conversation. I think they appreciate the structure of the lecture and the diversion of the multi-media.

Each semester my philosophy of teaching changes, sometimes just a little, sometimes drastically, depending on the class. However, in all of my classes, I try to maintain a balance between my duty to provided them with content knowledge and the need to get them to utilize that knowledge, with the ultimate goal of encouraging them to engage fully in their own education.

 

Teaching Qualifications:

My PhD is in Eighteenth Century British Literature, so I am qualified to teach Eighteenth Century Courses. The focus of my dissertation was women’s writing, and it incorporated authors from the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, so I am particularly qualified to teach courses related to female authors in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. I also have experience teaching lower division survey courses, composition courses, and the Introduction to Literary Studies.

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