Teaching Philosophy: Critical Thinking, Active Group Discussion, Self-Reflection
In my five years of collegiate teaching, I have worked to foster critical thinking and a creative learning environment in my classroom. I believe active learning is most successfully achieved and course material best internalized through frequent and engaged class discussion. At the beginning of a class, I often give a 10-15 minute overview of the week’s texts—typically a combination of readings, films, musical or language recordings and “artifacts” from popular culture. I then take the collective temperature of the classroom by asking students to articulate one main point that has stayed with them from that week’s assignments. Next, I literally transcribe these questions onto the whiteboard for them to refer to throughout class discussion; this provides a visual map of core tenets of the discussion and also crystallizes the overlaps and differences between their views. At the end of the discussion, I then have students do the work of summarizing what we’ve discussed. This last stage of synthesis is often one of the richest and most rewarding parts of a successful class discussion.
My course assignments aim to extend this in-class learning process by encouraging students to grapple with how our class topics relate to the “real” world outside the academy. Many assignments also reflect my own training and experience as a musician, ethnographer and performer. For example, I often have students perform mini-ethnography assignments, asking them to spend time in social spaces they might not otherwise think to analyze (a Laundromat, a NAUghty Bits Improv show, a PRISM drag show, or a gender-segregated space such as a Masonic Lodge, nail salon or barber shop). I then ask students to use the perspective of the “fly on the wall” in order to get outside their own cultural comfort zone and thereby analyze the social meaning and functions of diverse public spaces. For sound-centered courses, I ask students to deepen and extend their listening skills to sounds beyond spoken language and/or musically organized sound, for example through carrying a small, digital voice recorder into contrasting acoustic spaces of the built environment (a city street, a bus, a train, a hallway), recording what they hear and bringing these sounds back to the classroom for playback, group discussion and analysis. I also give my students—music and non-music majors—“listening exams,” where they are asked to memorize a set list of songs in advance and identify their most salient musical features upon playback or link these sounds to larger themes identified in class. Through these and similar assignments, I challenge students to step outside their respective social milieus in order to not only see and hear the world from another’s perspective but also to gain a broader understanding of how race, class, dialect and gender profoundly affect our own understandings of self in relation to society.
In assigning written work, I often see a tendency for research papers to become a diversion away from course content rather than a deeper engagement with it. For this reason, in addition to 10-12 pp. term papers, I ask my students to also write in-depth analysis papers throughout the semester. Here, I ask students to choose a set of texts already covered in the course, thematize them in the manner of their choosing, and delve more deeply into these issues by layering their own interpretations and analyses on top of what’s already been presented, discussed and debated in class. These assignments often reveal a sophisticated and personalized level of engagement with material not often found in standard research-based term papers. The analysis and term papers are graded using a detailed rubric students receive along with the writing prompt based on standard letter grades and are assessed based on a) how well I think the student has grasped key issues presented in the course; b) how much effort they have personally put into the assignment compared to their other written work thus far; c) and how well the writing mechanics of the paper were executed.
Using language, music and ethnographic method as entry points to deeply engage with cultural texts and further our own writing processes, I create an active and richly interdisciplinary classroom environment where my students can push their limits and grow as writers, thinkers, able communicators and humanists.
Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Songwriting I and II
Music in Culture
Anthropology of Native North America
Cultural Politics of Native America
Anthropology of Music and Sound
Navajo (Diné) Expressive Culture
Country Music and Cultural Politics
Global Indigenous Media
Classic and Romantic Music: An Ethnographic Approach
Proseminar in Ethnomusicology: Field Methods
Honky Tonk Ensemble (beginning fall 2015; with Byron Ripley of The Tumbleweeds)
Analysis Paper Rubric and Guidelines
Ethnographic Writing Assignment: Rubric and Guidelines
Graduate Research Paper Guidelines
Evidence of Teaching Excellence
Teaching Evaluations, "Anthropology of Music and Sound," Spring 2014 (all
Teaching Evaluations, "Songwriting 1," Fall 2014 (all evaluations included)
Teaching Evaluations, "Navajo Expressive Culture," Fall 2014
Syllabi (you are welcome to adopt but please credit directly)
Navajo Expressive Culture
Country Music and Cultural Politics