I am currently completing the Certificate in College Teaching at Duke University. This certification involves pedagogical training, coursework, and in-class observations of my teaching. I was recently awarded the Duke Department of Sociology’s Graduate Teaching Award.
Courses I have taught:
- Social Inequality – primary/sole instructor, 30 students
- Introductory Sociology – discussion section instructor, 8 students and 16 students
- Statistics I (graduate-level) – lab instructor, 15 students
- Economic Sociology – teaching assistant, 25 students
Substantive courses I have designed:
- Social Inequality: Race, Class, Gender, and their Intersections (click for syllabus)
In this course, we will explore the contours of social inequality in the contemporary United States and around the world. We begin by considering the axes of social inequality – how are social groups defined and categorized? Are all inequalities rooted in material resources, or can they be immaterial (i.e. symbolic) too? To understand why inequalities occur, we will draw on a variety of theoretical perspectives: functionalism, conflict theory, the social-ecological approach, and the cognitive/cultural approach. We will consider classic and contemporary versions of these arguments. We will then attempt to define the three principle kinds of inequality: race, class, and gender – plus their intersections.
We then chart the extent of social inequality in the U.S. – and in some cases, cross- nationally – in terms of race, class, gender, and intersectional disparities. Although inequalities are prevalent in many aspects of life, we will focus our examination on four key domains: (1) the labor market and the workplace; (2) the house, the home, and the family; (3) the school and university; and (4) health and well-being. As we explore the inequalities in these areas, we will consider modern theories and mechanisms that explain these various inequalities, and how they relate to the four theoretical perspectives on inequality from the beginning part of the course. Are there different explanations for the inequality experienced by different groups, subgroups (race vs class vs gender), and their intersections? Are there different explanations for different domains of inequality? What are the other axes of inequality that exist, and what are the other domains in which disparities occur? We will also cover the methods social scientists use to measure, study, and explain inequality in the United States and across the globe.
- Scientific Literacy in the Post-Truth Era (click for syllabus)
In this course, we will develop a critical understanding of the scientific process, learn to distinguish “good” science from “bad” science, evaluate how science and scientific arguments are (mis)interpreted and (mis)used in journalism and social media, and interrogate the way we use scientific evidence in our everyday lives. We will focus on science and scientific arguments that are made about the social world (e.g. sociology and social science; politics, law, and public policy; business; and epidemiology and public health). We will use social science insights to examine the social processes that influence the production of science and its reception by society. The course will provide foundational knowledge on research design, methodology, and fundamental theoretical concepts in statistics and causal inference.
- Meritocracy and the American Dream (click for syllabus)
This course examines whether the United States is a meritocratic society, and the extent to which the American Dream is accessible to all. We will focus on two areas of inquiry in this course, covering the disciplinary subfields of the sociology of stratification and inequality and the sociology of culture. Firstly, we will investigate how much (in)equality exists in the U.S., and the reasons for these socioeconomic disparities as established in the social science literature. Then we will take a ‘cultural turn’ by tracing the secular and religious roots of these self-made, rugged individualist narratives which live in on the American collective consciousness to this day. Finally, we will explore the frames contemporary Americans use to make sense of the degree of meritocracy and equality of opportunity in the U.S. We will examine the proposed mechanisms that seek to establish why these narratives are so persistent, even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary — such as symbolic boundaries, schemas, and the habitus. Through two collaborative, long-term research projects – a content analysis and an interview project – students will have the opportunity to engage firsthand in conducting research to understand the origins and staying power of these cultural narratives around social reproduction and mobility.
Foundational courses I am able to teach:
- Introductory Sociology
- Research Methods and Design (undergraduate and graduate level)
- Social Theory (undergraduate and graduate level)
- Quantitative Analysis (undergraduate and graduate level)
- Approaches to Mixed Methods (undergraduate and graduate level)
My ultimate goal in teaching is to encourage students to critically identify and question doxa – Bourdieu’s term for the taken-for-granted assumptions about the world that guide much of our social behavior. Practically, this means I am committed to training future social scientists, health care professionals, business leaders, law practitioners, educators, policy-makers and government officials in the importance of social inequality, scientific literacy, and the art and science of conducting research.
My approach to teaching is active, student-centered learning that involves a mix of pedagogical styles (such as discussions, pair/group activities, and lectures). I engage students with a variety of sociological media, including scholarly and popular articles, nonfiction and fiction books, podcasts, documentaries and films, and interactive websites. My assignments ask students to creatively develop writing skills, oral/presentation skills, and discussion and critical thinking skills. For example, during a unit on the social meaning of money, I asked students to conduct a breaching experiment over Thanksgiving Break, with impactful results. While studying social determinants of health and the role of masculinity, I asked students to work in groups to play the role of a variety of stakeholders and then come up with an intervention to incentivize positive health behaviors and outcomes for men and their children. I foster a classroom that is inclusive yet doesn’t shy away from tough questions about the social world.
I have received very positive feedback from students in my courses, with overall ratings that equal or exceed the mean ratings of other courses at Duke, among the social sciences, and within the sociology department. Students report that my class is “engaging and organized,” and that my teaching goes “above and beyond.” My students say that they “learned a lot” from my course approach and instruction, and they would “highly recommend taking [my] class.” Peer evaluators observing my course report that my class “strikes a great balance,” “is effective and engaging,” and that my teaching style is “prepared, knowledgeable, and professional.”