My Pedagogy, in Broad Terms:
In each of my courses, I base my teaching approach and methods upon the three fundamental questions of geography: What is where? Why there? Why should we care? These questions provide a frame through which students in my courses can engage with the discipline of geography, while also keeping a focus on how that content is connected to their lives.
Creating relevance is of particular importance to me, because my current position involves the instruction of introductory and University Program (UP) courses which populated by non-majors. Ultimately, through completing her courses, students not only achieve the prescribed learning objectives, but also come to understand how geography-specific tools and habits of mind can be beneficial within their own areas of study and personal lives.
While the questions of geography may seem discipline-specific, they illustrate the type of critical questioning that I aim to foster with my students, no matter what the course or context. At their core, these questions connect with questions of equity and access; two ideas I seek to increase in educational contexts through my pedagogical and research programs.
I aim for all of my instruction and work with students to be invitational. By that, I mean that I work with students, in ways that invite them to consider different ideas, engage in intellectual play, or even simply try something new. This type of engagement is crucial in fostering an ability in critical questioning – something I believe is imperative in today’s world. It is more important than ever that we support the development of our students in becoming engaged (global) citizens. Engaged citizens question what seems natural, trouble the authorship of texts, and seek what might be hidden between the lines. I create the conditions for my students to engage in these activities through curated sets of readings/podcasts/videos, missions in photography, pointed discussion, open-ended map-making, and exploration outside of the classroom. I aim for my students to see the “real world” in their texts, as well as their texts out in the real world.
My pedagogical invitations are created with inspiration from my training as a geographer, as well as from the field of relational aesthetics (Bourriaud, 2002). In relational aesthetics, spaces are curated to prompt interactions between humans, non-humans, materials, spaces, things, and other networks like discourses, and power. Engagement is achieved through the critical encounters that occur when the boundaries between artist and viewer are blurred, or in the case of education, the boundaries between teacher and student. In this way, these encounters prompt the individual to take up and perform different subject positions. These experiments with self can allow us to think about and understand new ways of being with each other in the world; a critical component of education.
My pedagogy then, in most instances aims to be a social circumstance where exchanges and interactivity occurs between students, space, and instructor. I curate spaces where the opportunity to experience something is created. With a strong knowledge in both pedagogy and content, I create the conditions necessary for learning. I do my best so that the student might RSVP to that invitation and gain new insights, understandings, and ways of being and becoming in the world.
To work toward these goals, students in my classes have:
- Explored local communities to put learned theories into practice
- Used social media to take geo-tagged photographs and create maps that make sense of content from readings in the context of the real world
- Created websites, movies, and other digital media that serve as curricular resources for other students and teachers
- Participated in dérives, flaneuries, and other movement-based activities that aim to make the familiar strange, and allow students to think about spaces in different ways
The Importance of the Spatial in Pedagogy
During my time at the University of Georgia, I have been identified as an educator who uses technology in ways that promote engagement and access, as well as help prepare pre-service teachers for technology-rich classrooms and other learning settings.
Last year, in recognition of my use of technology, I was nominated to give a video lecture in the University of Georgia’s Innovations in Teaching 20/20 series. This initiative works to promote innovation in teaching across the College of Education by featuring lectures on teaching and the use of technology. The aims of the program are to help educators use technology in ways that support engagement and pedagogy. Given my interests in technology, pedagogy, and geography, I lectured on the integration of spatial thinking across various classroom contexts using several web applications.
Specifically, I provided:
(1) a basic introduction to the ideas of space and spatial thinking,
(2) a description of why these ideas are important to all educational contexts and not just the geography classroom, and
(3) three easy ways for a variety of educators to promote thinking about space with their students.