Since 2001, I have taught a diverse array of courses offered in various settings, traditional in-class, online, study abroad, and courses with a service-learning component. I taught both introductory level political science courses as well as advanced courses on religion and politics, particularly within but not limited to the Middle East context. I also developed unique courses such as Sacred and Violent, in which they learn the sources of religion-related violence and the avenues of co-existence within a religiously pluralistic society with a service-learning project attached to it. I do not limit my teaching to the classroom environment. I challenge my students to go beyond their comfort zones and engage with the community through the materials that they learn in classes. Every semester, I link one of my classes to the service learning project, Inter-Generational Conversations on Politics, to have my students lead weekly discussions on current issues, linking them to the course material, in a senior living facility in town. Recently, I got a civic engagement grant to develop a program, Global Citizens Academy, in which international students at the University of Nebraska at Omaha will teach about their countries and cultures at local elementary schools on weekly basis.
As a political scientist, I believe that the goal of good teaching is to foster student engagement in politics as responsible and thoughtful citizens. Three teaching principles serve this goal.
First, good teaching should help students understand the relevance of politics to their lives. Teaching can encourage students to participate in politics only when they know that the theories and concepts discussed in the classroom have a meaning in their daily lives. Therefore, I make every effort to demonstrate the relationship between course material and everyday global, national and local politics. The application of this principle depends on the nature of the subject taught. In some classes, I start with an empirical question related to current issues and push the students to analyze the course material in an effort to solve that question. In other classes, I bring newspaper articles or audio-visual material on world affairs and ask the students to discuss it in the light of the materials covered in class. In yet other classes, I assign case study readings and lead the students to ponder on the cases through the theories taught. The assignments augment the application of this principle. A significant portion of my assignments requires students to relate historical and contemporary issues with course concepts. I have at least one assignment per course that requires the students to follow domestic and global politics.
Second, good teaching should improve students’ critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is crucial for engaged citizenship. It helps students become thoughtful citizens, who can analyze the assumptions beyond their own arguments and those of others, and in so doing it contributes to more nuanced, creative positions in public debates. This is achieved in my classes through guided and open discussion sessions. I challenge the students to help them see how arguments develop, understand what needs to be considered in political conversations, and question their prejudices. My assignments aim to develop students’ critical thinking skills. In all my courses, I give writing assignments through which students can critically engage with the class material. Depending on the size and nature of the class, these assignments can take the form of reaction papers, short essay questions, short papers, or research papers. I ask the students to synthesize from multiple sources, to identify various aspects of the issue at question, to develop an argument of their own, and to evaluate counter-arguments to theirs.
Third, good teaching should provide the students with a comfortable learning environment, in which they can freely exchange their ideas. This increases students’ engaged citizenship by enhancing their respect for diverse opinions. By “learning environment,” I do not mean only the classroom. I mean the relationship between instructor and students broadly defined. I believe that it is the instructor who can energetically frame this relationship as a dynamic, comfortable, and productive one. My experiences have taught me the importance of energy, determination, adaptability, empathy, trust, patience and a good sense of humor in creating a stimulating learning environment. When students feel the instructor is approachable and has their best interests at heart, they will more frequently be involved in class discussions, and they will seek out assistance if they are struggling.
Recent Courses Taught
Sacred and Violent (Honors Colloquium) (coming soon)
Political Entrepreneurship (coming soon)
Comparative International Development (coming soon)