Philosophy of Teaching — Laura M. Luehrmann
Philosophy of Teaching
Laura M. Luehrmann
The Ohio State University
I am a firm believer in active learning, and I try to maintain a very lively and interactive classroom. To me, teaching is not about lecturing to students; it is about presenting theories, concepts, and empirical material to students in a way that they can integrate this information into their own life experience. I try to accomplish this not only in my presentations and lectures, but in the questions that structure classroom discussion and, particularly, in writing assignments. For example, the culmination of my Political Ideologies class is a paper in which each student must sketch his or her own political ideology, as well as how this approach compares to two major contemporary ideologies of our world. I have similar writing assignments in my other courses as well.
In each of my classes, I emphasize critical thinking and real-world applications of the concepts and issues we study. I try to engage students who sometimes fail to see the humanity of political and social situations in other countries, or, more commonly, who overlook the interconnectedness of world events with our life in the United States. For example, to teach about rural politics in China, I have constructed a role-play exercise in which the students assume the identity of rural agricultural workers, peasant entrepreneurs, and party cadres, in an attempt to portray the competing priorities and challenges of implementing policies in rapidly changing circumstances. I also begin each one of my classes with a discussion of current events which are related to our subject matter. I have found this exercise most useful in the Political Ideologies classes, when students sometimes view political “theory” as completely divorced from contemporary political “reality”.
Finally, I do not see a rigid dividing line between research and teaching. Good teachers need to be at the cutting edge of recent scholarship, in order to help students see the dynamism of our work. Social science is not a collection of facts, but rather, an area of research that is still alive with puzzles, contradictions, and new areas of inquiry. I try to “demystify” research for students, by encouraging them to discover the excitement that can be found in researching the political world. I welcome the opportunity to supervise independent projects, and I have encouraged students in my own classes to submit their writing to appropriate journals for review. One of my students published his work in Wittenberg University’s East Asian Studies Journal, and two more have submitted their papers for review this year.
In addition to the three courses I have taught at Ohio State (Introduction to Comparative Politics, Modern Political Ideologies, and Chinese Politics), I am also interested in teaching courses on Asian Politics and Foreign Policy, Democratic Transitions, Political Participation (especially in non-democratic regimes), Political Development, and State-Society Relations.