Teaching

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In my teaching, like in my research, I am a social scientist at heart. However, also like in my research, I approach instruction in social science disciplines in a particular way. Specifically, I work to create a balance between, on the one end, critical work that theorizes society at the expense of the materiality of the issues at play and, on the other, prescriptive positivist work that often collapses the complexities of society into easily legible, but artificially standardized forms. In teaching about gender identity, for example, I center discussion on research that explores the materiality of transgender life that is so often ignored in work of critical theoretical orientations, but that also identifies, critiques, and offers alternatives to cisnormative and binaristic models of identity.

My philosophy on syllabus development is two-fold. First, I teach from an historical perspective, structuring my courses such that students are led chronologically through changes in society and the parallel development of theoretical ideas devised to explain those changes. Central questions in every course I teach are: What are the current theories? How did we arrive at them? Why do we think this way? And where are we going next? Second, I orient my syllabi toward multi-level and systemic perspectives on social issues that bridge the gap between individual experience and broader social forces. In the context of communication studies, this means focusing syllabi on theories that address the relationship between communication (at multiple levels) and the social system, with attention to mass-mediated, community-level, and interpersonal communications.

My approaches to classroom management and assessment, I feel, follow naturally from this structuring of courses. I aim to engage students in interactive learning environments that synthesize lecture-based instruction and student-oriented group discussion. At the same time, I strive to assess student learning not through exercises of recitation or direct practical application, but based on their ability to marshal course materials as analytic resources in the development and articulation of their own understandings about the nature of the social world.

This course was by far my favorite one this semester because of Professor TJ. He was engaging, fun, and understanding. I was very terrified of taking a Public Speaking class coming into this semester but his teaching style and the variety of speech styles we did was incredibly applicable, “personalizable,” and constructive.
— COMM 204: Public Speaking (Spring 2019)
He gave amazing review lectures in discussion with easy to understand slides… He never minded answering constant questions from students and was always very clear, precise, and knowledgeable about the topic. Best TA ever, so sad I won’t have him anymore!
— Comm 209: Communication and Media Economics (Spring 2017)
Very good at explaining particular concepts that were difficult to understand in lecture. Provided up-to-date examples that made concepts more clear and relatable.
— Comm 209: Communication and Media Economics (Fall 2017)
Thomas is a great instructor and very funny person. I liked being able to ask him questions, which he then answered with great depth and patience.
— Comm 305: Understanding Social Science Research (Spring 2018)
TJ is very knowledgeable about the subject material. He was extremely engaging and entertaining and I thoroughly enjoyed his discussion section.
— Comm 313: Communication and Mass Media (Fall 2016)
TJ was extremely helpful during his office hours and he did a great job explaining difficult material. Very accessible and friendly.
— Comm 305: Understanding Social Science Research (Spring 2018)
He was definitely one of my most helpful teaching assistants yet. If I had any concern, I would simply be able to send an email and have a response next time I checked my email.
— Comm 209: Communication and Media Economics (Fall 2017)
He was very relatable and understanding. Discussions were fun to come to and I always feel that I left having learned something that day. Also was accessible and responsive when needed.
— Comm 313: Communication and Mass Media (Fall 2016)