Each course, each class, and each set of students, has its own context and unique qualities. The challenge is to match each situation with an appropriate teaching approach, while staying flexible enough to experiment a little. Over time, I’ve developed an approach to organizing classes that encourages critical thinking, deepens understanding, and according to most students is highly engaging and enjoyable. The process begins with carefully selected readings assigned before class, followed by in-class discussion about the readings. This first half of class focuses on abstract ideas in preparation for the active learning in the second half of class. Here, students work in teams to apply these abstract ideas to a concrete problem. Fourth, team spokespersons brief the class on their team findings while developing skills of synthesizing ideas, presenting them succinctly, and fielding questions. These carefully designed in-class exercises keep classes fresh and learners enthusiastic. By applying abstract ideas in low-stakes classroom exercises, students approach their graded assignments with more confidence and less anxiety. The key to my approach is scaffolding both class exercises and graded assignments in a way that builds toward their final assessment–ideally based on a topic of their own choosing.

Courses Taught (Graduate and Undergraduate)

Public Policy Process. This 3-credit graduate course, required for Public Administration masters students, introduces students to public policy process theories. Students learn how to apply Kingdon’s classic Multiple Streams Framework and other theories to understand the policy dynamics of defining public policy problems, designing viable solutions, evaluating political receptivity, and explaining how certain issues rise on the policymaking agenda. Team-based class exercises lets students put knowledge into practice immediately, applying theory to more deeply understand current policy issues. Graded assignments build on basic case study research as students refine their policy writing and presentation skills.

Applied Qualitative Methods (GWU IAFF 6118). This 3-credit graduate course is an elective for International Affairs students preparing for their capstone research. The “applied” emphasis in this class is twofold: not only does the course teach qualitative methods for use in applied research contexts, it also teaches these skills in an applied way. Team-based class work lets students put knowledge from course readings into practice right away, enabling them to draw on classroom experiences to complete individual assignments. The course considers a variety of research ontologies and epistemologies and how they influence the application of methods, while emphasizing interpretivist approaches unique to qualitative research.

International Affairs Research Methods (GWU IAFF 2101) is a 3-credit undergraduate course that introduces students to the most commonly used methods in International Affairs research. Students learn how to read and critique scholarly empirical articles, pose and pursue their own focused research question, find relevant sources, collect and analyze initial evidence, and write a research proposal with feedback and support from their peer community.

Principles of Research and Inquiry (GMU Honors 110, formerly ‘Research Methods’). This required 4-credit undergraduate Honors course introduces students to a wide range of disciplinary research practices. Students learn how to pose and pursue a focused research question, use information technology to find relevant sources, analyze pertinent evidence, and communicate research questions and subsequent findings by participating in a variety of scholarly conversations.

Climate Change Adaptation: Challenges and Opportunities for Public Policy (Interdisciplinary Honors & Public Policy). Spring 2018 and 2019. This 3-credit Honors course introduces advanced undergraduates to climate change adaptation as a long-term governance challenge for advanced democracies. Through scholarly research, students investigate adaptation as a public policy problem, examine actual policies as potential solutions to the problem, and analyze the politics that surround efforts to adopt these policies. See this Honors College article on the course and another article specifically on a climate migration film screening & panel discussion students organized as their civic engagement project.

Guest Lecturer – PhD-level courses

Public Policy Process (Public Administration 763)  for Prof. Thomas Birkland, Fall 2017, North Carolina State University. Topic: Multiple Streams and the Case of the Australia’s 2007 Water Act.

Advanced Field Research for Policy: Theory and Methods (Public Policy 791) for Prof. Janine Wedel, since Spring 2013. Topics: “Case Study Design and Research: Co-variational, Process Tracing, Congruence, and other approaches,” “Approaches to (Theory-oriented) Case Study Research Design,” “Alternative Approaches to Qualitative Case Study Design: Learning Beyond the Classroom,” “Qualitative Case Study Design: Eisenhardt’s Inductive Case Study Approach, in Theory and in Practice,” and “Qualitative Case Study Design: an Example with Tips from the Trenches.”

Culture and Theory (Public Policy 800) for Prof. Janine Wedel, since Fall 2016. Topic: “Cultures of Research and Academia, Putting Theoretical and Methodological Knowledge to Work (An introduction to Ontology and Epistemology).”

Research Design for Public Policy (Public Policy 801) for Robin Siona Listokin Smith, Fall 2011 and 2012. Topics: “Different Flavors of Literature Reviews” and “Case Study Design and Methods.”

Culture and Theory (Public Policy 800) for Prof. Jack Goldstone, Fall 2011. Topic:  “Writing Research Papers.”