In her 2005 book Weight, Jeanette Winterson proclaims, “I want to tell the story again.” It is from this place, this short but powerful idea, that I choose to think about my teaching philosophy and pedagogical approaches. For what are we as teachers, if not storytellers, facilitating relationships between student and subject? I believe it is our responsibility to teach offering multiple perspectives, approaches, and ideas through a lens of anti-oppression. By telling the story over and over, the room for more interpretations, new meaning, and alternative endings becomes possible.
The acts of conveying knowledge, facilitating understanding, and evaluating students’ learning in meaningful and productive ways constitute a significant portion of a professor’s role in the university environment and therefore need careful consideration and reflection. As someone who is deeply invested in both research and teaching, and the connection between the two, it is my responsibility to contemplate the epistemological implications of my own pedagogical practices. As a facilitator of learning, interpretation, and meaning making, it is crucial to foster an environment of independent thought, insightful and provocative inquiry, ethical responsibility, and creativity.
As a teacher it is essential to understand that every person brings to the classroom their own situated knowledges and experiences, and these play an important role in the creation of a dynamic interactive learning environment. In order to encourage dialogue however, one must be willing to call into question the various relationships of power and privilege, taking up the tensions within a classroom even though these are often the most difficult moments of learning. To be an effective teacher, one must remember that the act of learning is fraught with conflict; in fact, at times learning can be incredibly painful and we, as teachers, are implicated in this process of dis-ease.
In 2009 I was awarded a Teaching and Learning Scholar designation for the project, “Re-thinking Access: Teaching and Learning Digital Music Technologies.” The focus of this project was on understanding the relationships between designer and user, as well as the use of digital music technologies by individuals (specifically artists) who have limited knowledge in the fields of Design or Computer Science. As a way to take up some of the findings of this research and to embed them into my teaching practice, I developed hybrid courses fully integrating theoretical and practical applications, enabling the integration of a wide range of pedagogical styles, and ways for students to engage with the course material.
In order to facilitate the complex process of learning, the teacher must actively engage students with a variety of pedagogical approaches, acknowledging different learning styles and challenging students to participate in learning processes that may fall outside of their comfort zone. At the same time, however, it is imperative to offer a supportive environment wherein students are given the time and constructive feedback needed to work through such difficult and challenging processes. Although students may find this approach difficult, I have found in my experience that if students are allowed to convey their concerns and subsequently see themselves included in the negotiation of the learning process and the classroom, their difficulties are understood as an integral part of their learning process. For me this type of negotiation, although constant on an implicit level, is explicitly discussed at the beginning of term, and then again during the middle of the semester.
Throughout my university teaching career, I have always reflected upon and made every effort to connect my teaching and my research. I am an active scholar whose areas of study and teaching fall within and between many disciplinary boundaries. My interdisciplinary research outcomes cross over conventional research models (journal articles, book chapters, an edited collection, conference papers, keynotes, etc.), artistic practice-based research (documentary, sound recordings, artists in residence, interactive media projects), and community-based research (curriculum development, performances, workshops, journalistic articles, etc.). And it is this diversity in approach and making that I bring to the classroom, whether it is in my university taught courses, the educational programs I run in the IMP Labs, the collaborative projects that are developed for the specific needs and wants of communities, and the mentoring of students, research assistants, post-doctoral fellows, and colleagues.
As you have already seen, many of my research projects contain a strong commitment to teaching, the development of curriculum, and new methods for conveying knowledge to various publics. In this section, I have highlighted a number of teaching innovations and projects that illustrate my passion for pushing beyond the boundaries of the conventional classroom. In fact, I have published articles discussing these very ideas.
Over the years my teaching philosophy has evolved to consider both the ongoing diverse needs and learning styles of students, as well as how to integrate interactive and creative practices. Over the past twenty years I have taught numerous large style lectures and upper level seminar style courses at the undergraduate level in the areas of Interdisciplinary Studies, Popular Music, Popular Culture, Communication Studies, Ethnomusicology, Cultural Studies, Media Studies, and Creative Technologies. Teaching the core research and methods courses, along with developing and teaching specialized seminars for the MAP Graduate programs has also been an element of my teaching contributions.
In the past fifteen years, I have initiated and developed a number of significant events and educational programs in collaboration with community partners, such as the Girls Rock Regina Camp, Sask Music, and the Northern Saskatchewan Hip Hop Mentoring Program. My research, teaching, and service have been recognized with two major awards: I was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Teaching and Learning for The Scott Collegiate/ IMP Labs Hip Hop Project; and the YWCA Women of Distinction Award for my work with Girls Rock Regina.