Updated: 5 March 2014
My department profile is an overview of my university life, and what follows below is from gleaned from my c.v. Below you have access to my most recent course outlines. Please feel free to contact me about them, or to use them for your own courses or reading lists. At the bottom of this page, you will find a statement about my teaching philosophy.
TEACHING & LEARNING FACILITATION EXPERIENCE
As of July 1, 2014: Professor (Whoot!); Associate Professor July 2007-present; Assistant Professor July 2001-2007
*Represents courses I designed and developed, for both distance and face-to-face delivery. ^Indicates courses I designed and developed for face-to-face classrooms.
Department of Communication Studies, Mount St. Vincent University, Halifax, NS
- Communication Theory and Practice (first-year core course)
- Communication Theory (graduate core course*)
- Co-operative Education Work Experience (first, third-year core course)
- Education in Communication Graduate Seminar
- Employee Relations (fourth-year elective course; on-line and face-to-face delivery)*
- Graduate Project Seminar (graduate core course)^
- Managing Organizational Public Relations (third-year core course)
- Mass Media & Public Opinion (third-year core course)
- Media, Culture and Society (fourth-year core course*)
- Research Methods in Public Relations (fourth-year core course; graduate core course*)
- Social Media in Public Communication (fourth-year elective course*; graduate elective course)
Graduate student supervision:
- Allana Bartlett: The Link Between Literature and Empathy: Exploring the Capacity for Indigenous-Authored Literature to Foster Change (in progress)
- Lindsay Falt: Best Communication Practices of NGOs in Developing Countries (in progress)
- William Hiscock: Paradigm Lost (and Found). A Historiographical review of the application of systems theory to public relations since 1975 (defended July 2017)
- Stacey de Molitor: Policy and Perception: Cyberbullying in the Nova Scotian Context (defended April 2017)
- Jaclyn Obie: Changing the Discourse: The Fight for Gender Equality in Pop Culture Blogs (defended August 2016)
- Allan Gates: Evolution of the Public Sphere as Considered in the Anonymous and the Rehteah Parsons’ Case (defended August 2016)
- David Neilsen: Spaces to call home: Exploring affinity spaces, settlement experiences and a participatory photography project with refugees and immigrants in Halifax, NS (defended August 2015)
- Helen Dolan: Student Experiences of Cognitive, Social and Teaching Presence in Online Graduate-Level Communications Courses: A Mixed Methods Study (defended December 2015)
- Kerrilynn Manning: Pathways to a Program: An Examination of Public Relations Education programs in Canada (defended October 2014)
- Lana Rostenberg: Marketing Romantic Relationships Through Digital Media (defended July 2014)
- Lori Errington: The Experiences of Female Members of the Legislative Assembly in Nova Scotia (defended September 2011)
- Janine Basha: Social Media, Public Relations, and the Government of Canada: An Analysis of Internal Organizational Discourse (defended June 2011)
- Gerald Bartels: The Creative Small Group – Towards a Framework of Collaborative Creativity within the Creative Sphere (defended August 2010; MSVU Best Thesis Award)
Thesis committee member for MSVU Students Lyndsay Anderson: A Post-structural Analysis of the SMU Froshweek Chant (in progress); Fabiana Gonzalez Manzo: Talking Big about Small Talk: Theoretical Model for Phatic Communication in a Social Media Era (defended October 2014); Jolene Titus: Nova Scotia Burning: Exploring Racial Discourse in Nova Scotia Media (defended November 2012); Dalhousie Master of Library and Information Studies Graduate Students Melissa Goertzen: Homeless Bound: A Search for Digital Literacy within the Realm of Social Media (defended July 2012) & Melanie Parlette: Personal Growth, Habits, and Understandings: Pleasure Reading Among First Year University Students (defended March 2010).
Directed Studies* Individual student projects included:
A critical discourse analysis of social media text targeted to primary and secondary school educators; An analysis of social media in communication contexts at the graduate level; An International Association of Business Communicators award based on her work term experience; An exploration of gender roles in the communication professions; An investigation of new technology’s role in changing distribution of communicators’ messages; A qualitative research project for Health Canada’s employee communication; An investigation of social norms marketing to university students; An Internet marketing feasibility study; An exploration of interactive, virtual public relations: the theoretical foundations, the practical approaches to implementation, and the potential effects on users and the community; Writing for and communicating with small and mass media. Assisted student in the production of curricula for professional workshops.
Cultural Studies Program, Mount St. Vincent University, Halifax, NS
- Critical Debates in Cultural Studies: Problemetizing the Popular (second-year core course)*
- Pop! Goes Culture (third-year senior seminar core course)*
Faculty of Education, Mount St. Vincent University
- Critical Media Literacy (graduate core course in Literacy Program; co-taught with Allan Nielsen)
- Critical Digital Media Literacy (graduate course in Literacy Program)*
Women’s Studies North American Mobility Project: Women’s Human Rights, Citizenships and Identities in a North American Context, Universidad de las Americas (three week seminar course) Puebla, Mexico (June 2007)
- Session: Cross-cutting Identities: national/regional/local/religious*
Teaching evaluations demonstrate the strengths of my personal instruction style, and my dedication to making the university a place to learn and experience new ideas.
A Statement on Teaching
My teaching philosophy is rooted in my own enjoyment of discovery. I make several assumptions based on these personal sentiments: Learning is fun; learning is active; learning is personal; and, learning is collaborative.
I have four objectives that guide the way I approach teaching and facilitating, whether the course has 280 students in it, or eight, and whether in an virtual environment or in face-to-face classroom. These objectives are:
• I want students to leave the course feeling as if they have learned the material set out at the beginning of the term by my colleagues, themselves, and myself.
• I want the students to experience the joy of inquisition and seeking knowledge.
• I want the students to learn to question, think and solve.
• I want each student to experience his or her own voice.
I begin planning and designing each course I teach by evaluating and adapting or adopting the course outcomes that have been outlined by peers in my department and/or field of study. If these do not exist—for example, if I am proposing a class—I will determine the knowledge base that I think each student should have if they are to go on to the next course level, or to continue the line of inquiry on their own. Through advice from my current peers, I have learned that “less is more,” and try to keep that in mind when setting out my course objectives.
Early in my teaching career, I took a three-day instructional skills workshop, which was instrumental in the formation of my teaching philosophy. During that experience, I learned that each student learns best in different ways. That is, some students learn best by reading, some by listening, some by seeing and some by doing. I try to accommodate each learning style in each class. I believe that when we experience the joy of learning something new, we want to continue that feeling.
I am frank and transparent with my students. I explain my teaching philosophy at the beginning of each course, and outline it on each syllabus. I outline my expectations of them, highlighting their need to be responsible for their own learning, which includes communicating with me throughout the term. I provide my definition of collaborative learning: learning is an active and often social practice. I hope to communicate that I believe learning is not competitive and isolated, and that by working together we increase our involvement in learning. I underscore the idea that if we share our ideas and responses to each other’s reactions, we can improve and deepen our thinking about the course’s core questions.
Each course with less than 80 students begins with the students creating a learning contract. Together, we outline what kind of environment we expect for optimum learning. By the second class, each student signs the contract, and it is posted to the course Web site. During the first week, learning teams are created. I create the teams based on an inventory that is given during the first class. My goal is to create diverse teams, and even in a seemingly heterogeneous class, I am able to find diversity on many levels. These teams stay consistent throughout the term. Together, they work on both in-class and out-of-class assignments. Before the end of the first week, each group determines the final mark breakdown for their team, filling in several values that I have left open for discussion. Because I have my own teaching objectives for each class, I always appropriate value for a major assignment and the final project or exam. Total scores are usually a mixture of individual and team marks. While all of these tasks may seem to be a lot of up-front work, I find that after the first week, students have created for themselves a comfortable learning environment, where they respect one another’s opinions and know that I am willing to listen to them and hear their ideas.
In courses where there are more than 80 students, I try to create a similar environment by beginning each class with music the students have brought in. Music can be used in almost any curriculum, and when it is their music, they want to share. In these large classes, I also walk around the room with my lavaliere microphone during the lecture. I speak to students across the room. I try to learn students’ names before the class begins by arriving early and speaking with individual students, and I ask them to tell me their name when they raise their hand during class. By mid-term, I usually know most of the students on a first- name basis. During the large lectures, I insert “think-pair-share” and then “share big” activities. I try to use multi-media whenever possible, and encourage the students to bring in examples of whatever concept we are analysing or theory we might be learning.
My presentation of course material and assignments in both the small and large classes reflects my philosophy that learning can be fun, and that we all learn best in different ways. I try to create case studies, critical reading and issues tests, lectures, and small- and large-group discussion around the day’s reading. Students are encouraged to say, “yes, but…” in small groups and in the larger class group. I use the Internet, film, newspapers, magazines, television, music and radio to help explain core concepts and difficult theory. Students are given participation points for bringing in their own examples, and for providing explanation to their peers. By class three, I usually no longer have to remind them.
When possible, I give out-of-class assignments that are relevant to their own life experience, and/or benefit the community in which I teach. For example, the final project for a third-year communication management course is the creation of a communication plan for a local not-for-profit organization. However, I give the students the option of choosing a mutually-agreed upon for-profit as their “client.” In my popular culture class, students do field work in a local shopping mall, analysing concepts of consumption, participation and agency in contemporary consumer society.
At two-week intervals, I give the students formative evaluations. I ask for anonymous (or not) feedback on their learning objectives and the course objectives. After reading the evaluations, we discuss as a class how to proceed.
I use these evaluations, and the summative evaluations required by my employer, as a guide to improve my teaching. Early student evaluations indicated that students sometimes perceive my course—and me—as unorganized. Through presentation of class agendas and clear learning expectations, along with a dose of assertive classroom management when necessary, I believe the evaluations have improved.
My own positive university experiences guide my actions as a teacher/learning facilitator. I remember well those people who lit my fire, and want to do that for others. I want students to be active, knowledgeable, and questioning citizens.
I thoroughly enjoy my role as a researcher and teacher/learning facilitator. When I am doing preparation for a class lecture, or a student says to me, “hmm, I never thought of that before,” I think to myself, “My God! I can’t believe they’re paying me to do this!” I believe I’ve got the world’s greatest gig.