JENNIFER LARGE SEAGRAVE portrait
  • Assistant Professor (Lecturer), Undergraduate Studies

Current Courses

Spring 2018

  • LEAP 1500-001
    LEAP Sem Humanities ENG
    Location: BU C 206 (Bus Classroom Bldg)
  • LEAP 1500-005
    LEAP Sem Humanities ENG
    Location: WEB 1248 (Warnock Engineering Building)
  • LEAP 1500-006
    LEAP Sem Humanities ENG
    Location: WEB 1248 (Warnock Engineering Building)

Fall 2017

Teaching Philosophy

 

ENGAGED, CONTEXTUALIZED, APPLICABLE

 

I believe that learning takes place when knowledge has been understood, contextualized,

and applied. In our complicated, modern world, students need to know why they are

learning what they are learning—they need to know how specific knowledge fits into

their particular academic program and the larger context of academia as a whole. All too

often, higher education in America confounds like a foggy windshield; students can’t tell

where they are going because they can’t see where they are. Transparency, therefore, is

one of the most important aspects of my teaching: I strive to explain how the material we

cover fits not only into students’ degree programs but also how it figures into academia

as a whole. I do not stand before my class delivering an interpretation of material,

expecting my students to remember and use it. Instead, when I present material I explain

who it comes from, why they crafted it the way the way they did, and how it will impact

my students’ futures.

 

I view my place in the classroom as the head organizer of active learning experiences: I

supply and arrange materials that the students are responsible for reading. Then, I help

explain and put that material into context for them. After brief lectures, my students

engage in collaborative or individual activities followed by large group discussion. The

activities we do in class relate specifically to large individual and team projects that

provide both practice and assessment. This is the style I have developed over the past 15

years. I find that moving the students from one activity to the next keeps them alert and

engaged. Continual practice in the classroom with my supervision allows me to assess

my students’ learning and prepare them for more significant assessments.

One concept pertinent to both the Social Science and Diversity/Humanities LEAP

courses I teach concerns the fact that ideas mean differently across cultures. The students

read an article about how cultural priorities influence the political interactions of nations.

And while they often feel they have understood the point after reading about how

economic hardship reduces a people’s ability to assess risk or religious priorities

encourage different choices than commercial interests do, this intellectual understanding

does not trigger the kind of immediate and visceral understanding they gain from a game

we play called The Emperor’s Pot.

 

In this game, the students are arranged into two groups or “cultures.” Each team then

establishes its own cultural priorities and characteristics. A task is determined for each

culture in relation to the other, such as acquiring an important resource. Both groups must

send a convoy of representatives to develop a relationship with the other culture for

purposes of accomplishing the task. After a few rounds of meetings and negotiations, the

whole class comes back together to discuss what they learned about the other group and

how their cultural priorities (which are intentionally very different) affected their actions.

I find that putting intellectual concepts into practice this way helps students remember

not only the concepts but the critical issues involved in their enactment. These topics then

have a greater meaning and applicability—they have been learned better than a simple

intellectual understanding allows.

 

Another area of learning in all of my classes concerns teamwork. I find that when a team

has practiced interacting and making decisions about hypothetical situations together,

they are better able to make difficult decisions when real conflicts arise. After teams are

assigned in my classes, I have students engage in a role-playing activity.

We study a list of styles about how different people respond to and engage in conflict, as

well as some of the reasons people engage in one way or another. Teams are given a

scenario, such as revising an assignment according to specific feedback from the

instructor. Each student is assigned a style to enact in the roleplay situation. Then teams

are asked to enact a team meeting to accomplish the task while another team watches.

After one team has completed the assignment, the other team has the opportunity to act

out the meeting. When everyone has had the chance to engage in the hypothetical

situation with people of differing engagement styles, we come together as a large group

to discuss what it was like “to be” each character. The exercise helps students develop

empathy for people with different conflict styles and generally results in more tolerance

for team members’ differences. Providing space for students to act and feel in different

positions gives them a broader range of experience and empathy than simply reading and

discussing engagement styles as an intellectual concept. In the roleplay, students have a

chance to practice patience that can be recalled in an actual situation.

 

By combining learning activities with short lectures and Socratic discussion, my

classroom maintains a focus on student involvement and engagement. In guiding my

students, I provide coaching and consultation. My greatest hope for them is that our

activities in class help them to develop skills, express themselves, and broaden their

understanding of the university as a whole. My most proud moments are when those

students who moved on several semesters past come back to my office and let me know

that they’ve succeeded. My very small role in the lives they forge makes me love and appreciate

my job as a teacher more than any other.