Generally, I am interested in teaching microeconomic theory as well as natural resource and environmental economics courses for both undergraduate and graduate students. Given my academic background and research interests I would also like to design and teach a course on water management institutions, which could serve as an introduction to water law for economists or environmental science and policy students.
While a doctoral student, I have served as a teaching assistant for an introduction to environmental and natural resource economics course (CED 201) and an upper level undergraduate natural resource economics course (CED 429), and as a co-instructor for an agribusiness in the global economy course (AG BM 338). During the Spring ’18 semester, I am an instructor for an economic analysis of environmental and resource policies course (CED 431). Both of these roles have provided me with an opportunity to teach in various size classrooms, where I have actively sought to creatively use my knowledge and skills. In addition, I have helped to design courses and to create and grade assignments; I have interacted with students and consulted with them during my regular office hours and via email. As an undergraduate, I served as a large-group and one-on-one personal tutor for mathematics, statistics, and principles of economics courses where I was able to assist students from diverse backgrounds and different skill levels. This teaching experience, along with the training received while obtaining my tutoring and online teaching certificates, have not only built my confidence as a teacher, but have also piqued my curiosity to search for new ways to inspire students to master the material, and to motivate them to become independent and open-minded thinkers.
I am a fan of an energized classroom. As a lifelong learner, there is nothing that I find more inspiring than excitement and intellect radiating from the professor. I believe that passion is one of the most important characteristics of good teaching, and that it might be contagious in the most mind-stimulating of ways. However, the recipe for successful classroom outcomes requires more ingredients than an inspiring delivery by a knowledgeable instructor; in my teaching philosophy, these additional ingredients include: (1) a well-designed and clear course structure, (2) timely feedback, (3) respect, and (4) creativity.
An instructor needs to be clear in communicating both the goals and objectives of a course, and the keys to success in achieving these objectives. Students bring different backgrounds, experiences, skills, and learning styles to the classroom; thus, a clearly articulated plan at the beginning of a course allows students to understand what is expected of them, and what they can expect from the class and instructor. A course syllabus needs to contain not only the course requirements, but also information about resources and tools for those who want to specialize in that area of study. For example, as a graduate teaching assistant, I expanded the topic-specific reading lists, which were not required, but helped students explore their interests and select topics for their research papers. Well-defined structures help to diminish ambiguity, which, as a result, lessens the anxiety that so many students experience.
Feedback is crucial for intellectual growth. For the feedback to be effective, it needs to be timely, constructive, and individualized. To stay focused and motivated, students must know how well they are doing in class, and how they can improve their performance. Thus, as a teaching assistant and co-instructor, I have sought to grade assignments and exams quickly, to be available to answer questions, and to provide additional resources, if needed. When grading assignments and answering student questions, I am very specific in explaining where they went wrong; I provide a full explanation of how to solve a mathematical problem and use simple examples to help build students’ economic intuition. Feedback, however, flows both ways. In order to be an effective teacher, an educator needs to know how well they are doing. Thus, to keep a course interesting and relevant, it should be evaluated not only at the end, but also throughout the semester, to provide timely opportunities to adapt the course when possible.
Respect for everyone and every opinion leads to open-mindedness, appreciation of diversity, and critical thinking. An effective classroom is a safe classroom where different views are encouraged, and shortcomings in knowledge are not punished, but treated as opportunities to encourage learning. Mutual respect can be developed and embraced through active debates, energized discussions, and group research projects, which I actively encouraged both as a co-instructor for an agribusiness in the global economy course and guest lecturer in a natural resource economics course.
Creativity goes a long way. Being able to present material in a variety of ways is essential to my teaching philosophy. In order for students to develop their economic toolboxes, they need to continuously practice their problem-solving skills and understand how what they know can be applied in different contexts. To stay engaged and motivated in class, students need to see the interconnectedness of the material being taught and reality. In a social science like applied microeconomics, linking theory with real life is extremely important. This can be achieved by providing creative examples, analyzing case studies, involving social media, or learning and applying new software. As a tutor for courses in principles of economics and elementary statistics, I helped students who came from diverse backgrounds and had different majors. In order to provide some clarity, I offered individualized examples to fit each student’s realities and interests. In a large class, this could be achieved by collecting information on students’ interests at the beginning of the course, and then using this knowledge to personalize their learning experience. As a co-instructor, I showed short videos linking theory with currently important policy issues, encouraged students to work in groups and use the internet in class to answer short research questions. Keeping students interested is a big challenge, but it is also a solution to a significant problem on campuses today—poor class attendance.
By having had the opportunity to study in diverse cultural settings, I have experienced different teaching styles which have influenced the type of teacher that I seek to become. My goal as an educator and mentor is to help students become self-motivated and creative critical thinkers. This cannot be achieved if students do not stay motivated and involved. Effective delivery of clearly defined course content, together with constructive feedback, mutual respect, and an effort to help students build the link between economic theory and their everyday lives and career goals can help to stimulate academic learning.