George Mason University

Shannon N. Davis

Associate Professor of Sociology
sdaviso@gmu.edu

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Teaching Philosophy

 

My teaching philosophy can best be described by three words: “excite, engage and empower.”  Although I have many goals as an instructor of sociology, I desire most that the students become excited about the material, are engaged in our discussions in the classroom and are empowered to take responsibility for their learning through discussions and outside activities which interest them.  To this end, I have organized my courses such that they are reading and writing intensive.  For my students to become excited in the material I believe they need to have read sociology from a variety of viewpoints and should be able to articulate their engagement via their writing.  Sociology to me is not simply regurgitating major theoretical or epistemological perspectives; I believe sociology entails learning to use a critical perspective for understanding the social world.  This includes learning to think critically about oneself and one’s surroundings.  However, I also believe that this learning should not be perceived as drudgery.  I show the students that I am excited to be in the classroom with them and that I intend to learn from them as well as guide their learning.  I see our environment as a community of neophyte scholars and try to use our time in the classroom together to excite, engage and empower them as such.

        To facilitate the students’ becoming excited, engaged and empowered, I strive to provide an environment where students feel comfortable expressing their views and interpretations of course material.   One of the ways I do this is to make it a priority to learn each student’s name and to call on them by name during class.  I use their names so they can get to know one another as well.  This small step typically leads to increased class discussion, as the students know one another as individuals and feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and building on one another’s ideas.

        My primary goals are for my students to become excited about looking at the world through a sociological lens, to become engaged in intellectual discussions regarding the social world and to become empowered to create (small) social change if only in their own lives.  When one of my students meets any one of these goals, I consider myself an effective teacher.  I am most rewarded when my students report that my course has opened their eyes to something in the social world they did not see before.