Table of Contents
Statement of Teaching Responsibilities
Course Descriptions + Syllabi
Examples of Student Work
Objectives and Strategies
Student Research Supervision
Statement of Teaching Responsibilities at UMBC
At UMBC, my primary responsibilities as an instructor are in providing students with the intellectual and methodological foundations to be successful research-focused communication scholars and professionals. In my first year, I redesigned MCS333: History and Theory of Mass Communication and Media Studies to reflect the demands on new media professionals to understand both administrative and critical paradigms of communication research. During the winter term, I introduced a new course to the curriculum, MCS370: Strategic Communication and Digital Analytics.This course provided students with the research methodologies necessary for developing effective online strategic communication initiatives, emphasizing the necessity of connecting practical skills with imaginative critique. And, in Spring 2016, I taught MCS499: Senior Seminar (Methods in Media Anthropology), which focused on helping students learn to conduct individual, systematic research in the social scientific and humanistic traditions of media studies.
I embrace teaching as an opportunity to empower students with social scientific theories and methods that explain, disrupt, and re-imagine futuristic discourses about media technologies. Given MCS’ and UMBC’s commitment to an honors college experience, I focus on developing a learner-centered community where students come into knowledge through engaged practices, discussions, and dialog informed by primary sources and original texts. As an instructor, I envision myself as providing students with a model for how a subject-matter expert approaches social and political problems in media communication, with the hopes that students will mimic that approach through their discussions of class content and learning activities.
To me, the core element of this approach is providing students with access to primary sources – archival documents, online communities, ethnographic data, research articles, and communication professionals – as resources for learning. Often, these come from my own research on media, science, and technology in the post-World War II British and American Empires. Also key, however, is providing students with an intellectual space to experiment with the tools of new media production: my assignments provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their mastery of key concepts through media praxis involving web design, video production, strategic development, and media activism. I complement this use of experiential pedagogy with tests and reviews, which provide students with a sense of their intellectual growth in various fields of knowledge. Recognizing the importance of grades to many students, I include multiple opportunities for students to evaluate their own success in honest ways. I often consult students’ own appraisals before calculating final grades based on assignments, participation, and attendance.
Articles that have influenced my teaching
- “Feminist Pedagogy and Critical Media Literacy”
- “Canonical Formations and the Anti-Canonical in The Invisible Man“
- “Threshold Concepts in the Development of Problem-Solving Skills”
- “Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results”
Courses and Syllabi
MCS333: Histories and Theories of Mass Communication & Media Studies is the first course in the MCS major sequence, and introduces students to the intellectual history of the field of mass communication and media studies. As a new major, MCS continues to experiment with what literature should form the foundation for the class. My Fall syllabus was the first to introduce students to the administrative/positivist tradition of the field; and my Spring syllabus reduced the amount of focus on that tradition to provide students to wider exposure to faculty expertise in the humanistic and critical tradition.
- Fall 2015 Syllabus
- Spring 2016 Syllabus forthcoming
MCS370: Strategic Communication & Digital Analytics is an online elective course in MCS, and introduces students to digital strategy. Playing to the strengths of the department, the course emphasizes the research and ethical foundations of developing effective online digital strategies. We begin with a primer on how to develop strong multimedia strategies for different fields (corporate, political, activist), then discusses how to create strong online content and relationships, and conclude by learning how to evaluate the impact and success of those online initiatives. Topics include ethics, audience analysis, web analytics, SEO, Impact and Insights, and network analysis.
- Winter 2016 Syllabus forthcoming
MCS499: Senior Seminar (Methods in Media Anthropology) is a senior seminar that focuses on developing students’ research skills through an individual capstone project in media anthropology. Emphasizing the granularity of media practices, the course helps students develop, execute, and write their own historical and ethnographic projects on media production and consumption or other communication practices, integrating theory and method into a final project. Topics included research ethics in participant-observation and archival work, analyzing qualitative and quantitative data, and putting findings to work in guiding professional communication practices.
- Spring 2016 Syllabus forthcoming
Summer Workshop in Mediating Ethnography was a graduate student research methods workshop series within the Malta Anthropology Field School (June 10-August 16) supported by Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and Expeditions International. Located in situ of ethnographic research on the island of Gozo,the five workshops in mediating ethnography helped MA and PhD students from the US, UK, and EU develop an understanding of media technologies as a gateway for examining the intersubjective dimensions and dialectic relations of method and analysis.
Examples of Student Work
MCS333, Timelines: This assignment asked third-year students to plot the history of mass communication theories in relation to world and media historical events, focusing in on one topic or medium. Here is a successful timeline on propaganda, one on racial politics, and one on strategic communication.
MCS333, Dialogs: This assignment asked third-year students to choose one of three topics and write a 2500 word dialog between two media theorists as they would discuss the media/topic. forthcoming
J320/MCS333, Producing Critique: This assignment asked third-year students (at both University of Oregon and UMBC) to 1) identify a local communication issue (research), 2) analyze the issue from the perspective of one media theorist (5-7 page paper), and 3) produce a media artifact that would address or resolve the problem in a way sympathetic with their theorists analysis (production). At the conclusion of the assignment, students are asked to write a 1-2 page critical reflection on the process, drawing on a second theorist to contextualize their experiences within a wider sociocultural world of mediation.
- Don’t Be a Rapist, Fraternity Pedagogical Media Intervention (Sp2013, UOregon)
- I Am Complex (F2015, UMBC)
- Detourning Comcast (F2015, UMBC)
MCS370, Strategic Plans: This assignment asked second-year students to formulate a media plan for an imaginary or existing company, politician, and/or activist coalition. forthcoming
MCS499, Capturing the Senses: This in-class assignment asked fourth- and fifth-year students to capture ethnographic information about media and communication practices in their field sites by any means other than writing. forthcoming
Summer Workshop, Soundscapes: This workshop activity asked first- and second- year graduate students to collaborate on creating a soundscape of the Festa du San Lawrenz that would be productive for ethnographic writing. forthcoming
Objectives and Strategies
My pedagogical strategies and development is founded on a need to develop ethically-minded media intellectuals with strong processual literacy skills. By media intellectuals, I mean… Key to this is developing processual literacy, by which I mean… The intention is for this processual literacy to give way to threshold concepts, ideas that …
Given the team-based realities of contemporary work, my courses often focus on helping students connect theory and practice while developing effective collaboration skills. This approach manifests itself differently based on the size of my courses.
In MCS333, a course with approximately 35 students, I utilize a program entitled SLuG (Student Learning User Group) to organize students for a group media praxis assignment. The assignment asks students to identify a media or social problem, and use our media theorists from the course to develop a solution or intervention. SLuG organizes students into semi-randomized groups of three based on their skills as either a project manager, writer, or media producer. The benefit of this approach is that students are placed into groups outside of their peer networks, where the distribution of labor is frequently made uneven through various social affinities and symbolic capital/debts. Follow up research has shown that students share in the research dimensions of the projects and share responsibility for editing the paper and media artifact – thus squelching fears of a Fordist approach to a group media project.
- Slug was actually developed at the University of Oregon by myself and a team of researchers/programmers attempting to re-personalize a 200-student Feminist Media Studies course where we had heard complaints of boyfriends relying on their “girlfriends”/”Significant Others” to carry substantial weight in group projects organized based on acquaintance.
In MCS499, which by contrast has 11 students, I organize students into research pods based on particular interests. In the past iteration, students were organized into 3 person pods focused on a medium and/or industry (e.g. social media, journalism, podcasting, etc.), in which they shared relevant literature and reviewed in-class and out-of-class writing for each other. In the future, it might also be possible to organize students based on topics (e.g. religion, gender, etc.) or theory (e.g. feminist theory, semiotics, practice theory, etc.).
In both classes, students are asked to reflectively write about their experience working in a group using at least one of the sociocultural theorists discussed in class. In this way, I help students bring their processual literacy regarding the gendered divisions of labor, standpoint epistemologies, and/or media habitus to bear on their experiences doing collaborative work and collaborative discovery as media intellectuals.
Perhaps the largest struggle for me as an instructor is in balancing empathy and strictness in developing students’ sense that communication practices required disciplined modes of thought — however anti- or counter- disciplinary they may be. This in part stems from my own odd academic background: as an undergraduate in a performance and jazz studies major, my world revolved around balancing course work and individual practice, often for 4-6 hours beyond “homework,” with a part time job. By the time I was a junior, my part time job was gigging with amazing jazz groups across the midwest, and my major and livelihood melded together. Given the radically different intellectual and practical regime of a music degree vs. a media studies degree, I often find it difficult to imagine what the lives of my students are like, and difficult to identify how they are investing time and energy into their major — if, indeed, they are. Where “studio” was a time of one on one instruction with my bass professor, and resulted in only a handful of painfully ill-prepared lesson, that instilled a sense of discipline around “majoring in” or preparing for a career in music, I often struggle with how or if to inspire a similar sense of discipline in my media and communication studies students.
I turn this weakness into a strategy for modeling course assignments in a way that emphasizes practical application and self reflection about how ideas about communication transform their understandings of how to communicate. My producing critique assignment is perhaps the clearest example of this: it requires students to not only identify a problem and propose a theoretically informed solution, but to also write reflexively — with theory — about the process of doing so.
Student Research Supervision
Undergraduate Theses and Capstone Projects