My philosophy of teaching is greatly influenced by my own education, research, and professional experience. My education is highly interdisciplinary, resulting in degrees in law, architectural studies/historic preservation, and city and regional planning. Within all of these disciplines, my work has been nontraditional. For example, my studies in historic preservation focused not on the built environment, but on affordable housing policy. My city and regional planning degree stepped away from the urban, resulting in a dissertation addressing Native Americans, environmental justice, and a polluted lake. Both my research and professional service focus on how my chosen fields of study can help vulnerable populations and promote sustainable development. I believe that students should stretch the boundaries of how they see the field to consider how they too can use preservation and its allied fields to solve larger problems. For this reason, I further believe it is important for students to consider and understand how their work influences the world around them — beyond protecting a site, a building, or an object, they must understand how their efforts will impact people and the environment. To accomplish this, my teaching seeks to incorporate applied practice, interdisciplinary thinking, communications practice, and a variety of assessment practices.
Understanding theory and its application in practice.
All students benefit from a fundamental understanding of preservation history, theory, philosophy, and policy-making. Putting these ideas into practice through projects or case studies helps bridge the gap between abstract concepts and preservation practice. It is the role of the professor to employ methods of instruction that will engage an ever-changing student body. This includes, but is not limited to, creating interesting graphic presentations, using active learning techniques, and creating interactive websites to facilitate understanding of these subjects. This has been incorporated into all of the courses I teach. Students are required to understand how it is that preservation practice started, where it is today, why it its in its current state (good and bad), and consider how the field can be improved. In class and online discussions with the instructor and colleagues, research and analysis on special topics, and presentation and critique of ideas and analysis play a significant role in understanding theory and application of these various disciplines and how they can be applied to coursework now and to future practice (See HP 602 Discussion Board). This is also reflected in the utilization of assignments requiring applied skills such as creating preservation plans (See HP 617 Fall 2018 Final Plans), writing grants (See HP 601, Summer 2018 Final Project 1), or analyzing how they might use preservation laws like NHPA, NEPA, and 4(f) to address a hypothetical transportation question (See HP 602-201 Spring 2018 Exam Response).
Promoting interdisciplinary thinking.
Preservation problems are multifaceted, so the evaluation and understanding of arguments and ideas relating to their solutions require an understanding and appreciation of a variety of disciplines. Students must recognize that they cannot address cultural resource management without knowing the constraints of their actions created by other disciplines and policies. Nor can they ignore the ethical, social, cultural, and economic impacts of their work. Structuring readings, classroom activities, and outside research in a manner that requires students to work outside their area of expertise can enhance interdisciplinary understanding. Students should be encouraged to interact and work with their peers, professors across the campus, and the surrounding non-academic community to gain an understanding of the diverse backgrounds involved in preservation decision-making. It is also the role of the instructor to encouraging experience in the field to see work in progress. This has been accomplished in Introduction to Historic Preservation and Preservation Ethics through requiring students to look at preservation through different lenses, mandating that students read and understand literature on archaeology, geography, political science, economics, and ethics. They are also afforded numerous opportunities to interact with colleagues from professions ranging from engineers to archaeologists in online discussion boards that allow students to consider problem-solving from a variety of perspectives (See HP 617 Fall 2018 Discussion Board). Students have also been encouraged to attend lectures and discussions on law, civil rights and social justice, architecture, and anthropology outside of class meetings (See HP 602 Student responses to Richard Rothstein’s lecture on Color of Law).
The effective communication of ideas is the final step in the process. With stakeholders from many different backgrounds, being able to communicate using a variety of methods to a range of audiences is vital. Therefore, part of my teaching philosophy centers on the development of group communication and presentation skills. This requires creating a respectful and professional, but also relaxed environment where students feel comfortable interacting with each other and the professor. Additionally, students must also be given ample opportunity to develop their writing skills through the creation of documents ranging from basic research (See HP 601-201 Final Paper), persuasive (See HP 601 Advocacy Piece), and technical writing assignments (See HP 617 Final Plan). Students in all courses are required to research, write, and present at various times during the semester. This may entail leading class discussions, creating presentations relating to research projects, creating graphic representations of legal processes, and engaging in structured debates on ethical issues.
Determining whether these goals are being met requires constant evaluation of student learning and satisfaction and teacher performance. Assessing student progress should be accomplished through a broad range of methods that test critical thinking and problem solving skills rather than just memorization of facts and philosophies. In addition to conventional exams, students may be required to write short, in-class response papers, complete projects, and participate in community activities such as attending planning board meetings.
As one would expect of any dedicated educator, my philosophy is ever-evolving as teaching and mentoring require flexibility in content and presentation. Understanding and accommodating how students learn best at the group and individual levels as well as moderating discussion based on changing paths of interest and current events are critical to maintaining a productive environment for learning. Such flexibility creates an atmosphere that facilitates students’ questioning and critically evaluating their world.