my approach to (MICRO-) TEACHING
At the LSE, graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) are considered 'class teachers' for the seminars that we teach. What we do is viewed as 'micro-teaching.' Teaching is one of my favourite aspects of being a grad student at the LSE. I'm very passionate about teaching.
I've been teaching as a GTA for several years now at the LSE and actually got my start in the LSE-Peking University Summer School, one of the three summer schools that the LSE runs each year. The summer courses are full-term courses condensed into the span of just a couple of weeks. As my colleagues know, I cannot emphasise enough how incredible these courses are for new GTAs: you end up teaching the most academically diverse classes in the most condensed teaching period in an exciting city that competes for the attention of your students. If you can succeed as a GTA in this environment—creating engaging seminars that connect with and build upon the lectures, teaching challenging course content to high academic standards and in a condensed time-frame, teaching the material across the different academic and professional backgrounds of your students, and holding the attention of your students through to the end of the course—you can succeed as a GTA in any environment. In fact, the teaching strategies that I've developed during the summer school are those which I continue to stick by.
My approach to teaching seminars is very much informed by my own liberal arts education at the University of Toronto. My method is discussion-based learning: it is centred on identifying and probing the thorny questions that arise out of the course material, and placing them in empirical, theoretical, and inter-disciplinary contexts.
And it's a process-based learning method in which I encourage students to bounce around ideas, and guide them to making links between empirics, concepts, and theory in local and global contexts.
There is a 'feedback loop' method in how I teach my seminars: I am very attentive to what works in each seminar session and what doesn't in generating the types of high-level discussions that push students to think critically; and based on this, I amend my teaching accordingly for the next seminar session until I reach what works best for the class. But the core of my seminars is high-level discussion in a relaxed large-group environment. I'm interested in fostering discussions which engage ideas at a sophisticated academic level. I don't dumb down the material or how I engage students in the material. My guiding philosophy is that the greatest academic respect that I can show my students is holding them to high academic standards.