Teaching Philosophy

My teaching interests center around inequality and social justice, with substantive focuses on gender and sexuality, diversity and inclusion, policy, and collaborative community-engagement. I have previously taught Introduction to Sociology and Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies both in person and online at Virginia Tech--a large, land grant and STEM focused institution--and Smith College, a small, private, liberal arts women’s college. These varied experiences have provided me with the skills to teach diverse populations of students and use a wide range of teaching strategies.

 

As such, I have three goals for students through my pedagogy:

  1. to critically analyze inequality to build towards mutual respect and equitable practices,

  2. reflect upon one’s positionality and situate individual experiences within social structures, and

  3. research academic theory and contested ideas from a variety of viewpoints and engage in dialogue with a wider public.

 

As a result, students are more informed about the implications of what we learn in the classroom by becoming aware of power and engaging with diverse communities to work towards social change.

Because I teach my students about intersectionality and inequality of opportunity, it is important that the structure of my courses and pedagogy are intentional about social justice. At the beginning of each course, students collaborate in the co-creation of our classroom space. Rather than creating rules about what not to do, we strategize methods to support one another’s learning and how to interact with one another during discussion including community care, calling in rather than out, and respectful rebuttal. Because my courses often touch on controversial topics, this activity creates an environment of mutual respect and common language, while also fostering opportunities to grow, even when we inevitably make mistakes. I also design each course to center underrepresented scholarship and voices in the class. I teach through the scholarship of primarily women, transgender/non-binary scholars, scholars of color, and scholars from the global south. Additionally, I assign readings that vary in format including articles, blogs, poetry, documentaries, podcasts, ethnographies, memoirs, zines, and graphic novels. In doing so, I teach students the discipline via scholars and work typically considered outside of the “canon”, even in introductory classes, increasing students’ access to text and thinking about the implications and reach of WGS and SOC perspectives. This allows us to center class discussion around not only what the readings say, but also about the development of disciplines. In their evaluations, students have appreciated such syllabi design as they were able to relate to, speak from, and be seen through texts that centered their own identities.

Further, I assign a mixture of reflexive and research activities to teach students about the relationship between individual experiences and social structure by integrating popular culture into course materials and developing assignments that connect course material to students’ lives, which can be completed both in person and virtually. For example, to illustrate concepts of doing gender and gender accountability in my gender courses, I have students complete a “Gender Scavenger Hunt.” In this assignment, students keep a journal over the course of a week charting their use of gendered “artifacts” such as beauty products, clothing, or even the food they consume and reflect upon gendered assumptions by using (or not) the given objects. This enhances students’ conceptual awareness by transferring knowledge from the classroom to objects in their everyday life. Similarly, in my Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies course online, students collaborated to produce a course website to create a public forum upon which complex theory was applied to current events and delivered in a format to educate those outside of our class. Students wrote blog posts, created infographics, and made documentaries to put on the website to discuss broader WGS concepts about feminism and inequality such as women’s history, race and class, ability, online social movements, education, cyber violence, and work-home spheres. As a result, students were able to visualize how class concepts structure their lived experiences and began to think critically about the ways in which they can work towards social change through small, local and digital actions. 

Finally, it is important that students are able to use critical thinking skills to create logical arguments while also demonstrating a sensitivity to and awareness of power, privilege, and difference. For instance, a favorite class activity of students is a short writing exercise entitled “Letter to the Haters.” In this activity, students find a social media post, video, or article that provides a viewpoint that opposes their own. They then write an informative and persuasive, yet respectful, letter to the original author to educate them on how class concepts might inform their perspective. As a result, students learn how to discuss divisive topics through a sociological lens while using research to support their claims. Similarly, students in my online introductory women’s and gender studies course contributed to a course website wherein they wrote educational blog posts that connected course concepts and readings to current issues and popular culture. As the website grew with blog posts, articles, brochures and flyers, short documentaries, infographics, and games about different facets of feminism, students would share the website with family members, friends, and the wider public to teach them about feminism--which is often misunderstood and highly contested--in an accessible format.

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Teaching Evaluations

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© 2020 By Megan Nanney