Varied Activities and Materials
I teach to get energy and immediacy flowing through the class. I favor activities that make students engage each other's ideas or practice new skills as a learning community. I lend each class its own rhythm by incorporating warmups, group or pair work, explanation, and discussion. I address diverse learning styles by introducing variety: overviews, exercises on specifics, games, drama, simulations, debates. I keep things lively and relevant by including films, songs, photos, and maps. I find real situations to confront so that students better integrate new material and draw on their background knowledge. I assign reading questionnaires so that discussion relates to their ideas. When I perceive a need for extra materials, I make them, for example coursepacks that wed primary and secondary sources to learning outcomes, and multimedia such as an archive of TV series excerpts that add authenticity when addressing cultural trends.
I am devoted to reflective teaching: thinking about course style and content and always trying to improve. Drawing on my experience as a Teaching Consultant at Brown University's Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, I invite colleagues to visit my classes in order to get feedback of all kinds. I read student evaluations carefully to see what lessons students preferred, and keep track of assignment formats to fine-tune those that are most effective. I put considerable effort into making students feel comfortable, and typically use an online Learning Management System to post material and to make expectations transparent for papers and tests. Mapping out course aims and activities in this way allows for reuse of content within a stable, adaptable structure. I use technology to amplify effective pedagogical practices and have had particular success in this respect with my "French through Songs" educational website, which averages 40,000 hits per month from an international audience.
Challenging, Motivating Courses
My goals include staying in touch with student interests and implementing challenging courses on contemporary literature, culture, and film. I remain current in various fields through conferences, professional memberships, and listserves, and incorporate related books and articles in my teaching so as to foreground an interplay of critical voices. I develop courses where students simultaneously expand their knowledge of subject areas across disciplines, discover other cultures in depth, and spend generous amounts of time practicing their skills. As a teacher and mentor, I balance academic rigor with a relaxed atmosphere and use professional development experiences to maintain my own lifelong learning, for instance a 2007 ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview Assessment Workshop and a 2008 AATF Summer Seminar in Switzerland and Belgium. In sum, I empower students to analyze issues across methodologies, to appreciate multiple perspectives, and to articulate a complex understanding of cultural differences.