Teaching Statement

A downloadable PDF version of this statement can be found here.

I have taught in a variety of roles: Faculty Lecturer, Teaching Assistant (TA), and mentor of both undergraduates and graduate students. As Faculty Lecturer for a new course, Introduction to Assistive Technology, I developed the syllabus and course content. I created a class that focused on my teaching goals and ensured that my students would be learning skills and gaining knowledge critical for their future careers. Through these experiences, I have honed my own teaching philosophy and have adjusted to meet the needs of large and small classroom settings. I believe effective teaching is achieved by three fundamentals; reflection, adaptability, and accessibility (See Figure 1). I think these mechanisms all work in combination to produce dynamic and impactful learning interactions.

Three gears connected to one another that are labeled: reflection, adaptability, and accessibility.
Figure 1. Reflection, adaptability, and accessibility working together for effective teaching.

Reflection

As an instructor, I frequently challenge my classes with open-ended questions about course material, which motivates students to reflect on their own life experiences. This practice helps students connect with the material and deepen their learning in the classroom. For example, when discussing learning aids in my Introduction to Assistive Technology course, I asked students to consider learning tools they had used throughout their education. This conversation led students to transform and broaden their understanding of who uses learning supports. I also asked my students to bring in news articles related to course material at the beginning of each week. The students would contextualize the subject of the class into their everyday lives. These weekly reflections became a way for students to connect themes from week to week. In course evaluations, students have noted the “stimulating discussions” lead to “lots of student engagement.” Finally, as an instructor and mentor, I am constantly evaluating the effectiveness of my teaching through frequent student feedback. Through both formal and informal mechanisms, I can respond quickly to class dynamics.

Adaptability

A common hindrance to students is when a teacher has a preconceived mindset of their learning styles and abilities. I have observed when this type of rigidity has led to disrupted learning experiences. In one case, I was a teaching assistant in a large lecture where laptops were banned. This resulted in students attempting to circumvent rules and an unnecessary focus on policing them. More importantly, students with disabilities were outed and obstructed from learning. In designing my own classroom, this kind of rule goes against my philosophy of removing learning obstacles and supporting student needs. I kept these goals in mind when I was hired at Chapman University to design and teach the first Introduction to Assistive Technology class. Using the flexibility of creating my own curriculum, my syllabus focused on disability advocacy and inclusion. Listening to previous student feedback I altered my courses to allow the use of laptops and even incorporated their use during class discussions – having students search for ideas to share. From this experience, I learned that being open to changing the rules can have unforeseen outcomes: happier, more engaged students and greater access to learning for everyone.

Accessibility

I have worked to create an accessible, interactive learning space in both my classroom and laboratory. While in-class conversation is good and can be conducive to student learning, I understand that some students are unable to participate in this way. Instead of penalizing students for being afraid or unable to speak up in large classroom discussions, I offer alternative avenues for participation such as email, online forums, and smaller discussion groups. While helping the students find alternative means of communicating in the classroom, this also helps manage larger, growing class sizes. Inclusion also means allowing for a diversity of thought both in learning styles and in how to solve problems, including using multiple methods to evaluate student learning. I also bring in additional voices as guest lecturers to expose my students to new viewpoints. For example, in my Assistive Technology course, I invited a woman of color who also has a disability to share her own experiences. In my course evaluations, one of the most meaningful comments I received was, “You were so accepting and kind to me, I knew you cared about me and my disabilities. Thank you.” This is the support I would like all my students to feel when they attend my classes.

Future Direction & Example Courses

My experiences as an instructor and mentor have prepared me to teach both large and small college course settings. In reflecting on my own work as an instructor, I believe in adjusting to the needs of the students and creating an environment that works for the dynamics of the group. I would like to continue advancing my knowledge of pedagogy by taking more courses and workshops.

With my background in both technology and social sciences, I am prepared to teach a variety of courses. In future, Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Research Methods, Gender and Information Technology, and Technical Foundations. I am also prepared to teach new courses such as Computer Games & Society and Introduction to Assistive Technology.

My Email Signature Explained

A laptop with text on the screen and a cup of coffee on a desk.

I have now borrowed parts of my email signature from so many other people I felt the need to write a short blog article explaining them. I’d also like to give appropriate attribution to those who have given me all these wonderful tips.

My email signature:

Kate Ringland
Informatics PhD Candidate
Social & Technological Action Research Group
ARCS Scholar
University of California, Irvine
kateringland.com

Pronouns: she/her/hers

If you have an accommodation need for a planned meeting, please email me directly and I will do my best to make appropriate arrangements. Should you require any materials sent via email in an alternate format, please let me know.

In an effort to create a more inclusive space in my work, I have taken some small steps (yes, my email signature is a very small, but important step). I indicate my pronouns because I want others to feel safe in disclosing their pronouns to me. If it becomes more common practice to indicate preferred pronouns immediately, at the beginning of a conversation, then there’s less chance for misstep or someone feeling marginalized. One blog about this can be found here: http://www.gradpsychblog.org/signing-on-for-acceptance-can-adding-your-gender-pronouns-to-your-email-signature-make-a-difference/#.WjRItUqnFEY

I also would like to be more inclusive (and accessible!) to those with disabilities. I borrowed the bottom portion of my email signature from a professor, Dr. Jay Timothy Dolmage, who has recently published a book – Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education (Corporealities: Discourses Of Disability). You can find out more about that here: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/12/07/author-discusses-his-new-book-disability-and-higher-education

I hope this was helpful and if you have any other ideas for how we as individuals can make the academic workplace more inclusive, leave a comment!

Resource List – Advice for Grad Student

I’ve been wandering the net looking for useful information for grad students (particularly those who are working on their dissertation and looking forward to the job market.) So here I will start compiling the useful information and links I have found and update as needed.

If you have your own materials or have links to ones you like, feel free to share in the comments!

Destination Dissertation Book Cover, a briefcase with the title and authors written on it

Book Cover with title and author and a cartoon man in a tie

Large tree in green forest covered in moss

Resource List – Making Presentations Accessible

A black and white photo of a laptop computer, a smart phone, and a notepad with a pen all on a desk.

I’ve been compiling a list of useful links on how to make a presentation accessible. The top tips are:

  1. Use Sans Serif font larger than 28 pts.
  2. Use colors that are high contrast (e.g., black font on white background).
  3. Limit moving and crazy transitions (good for those prone to motion sickness in the room).
  4. Use alt text for all images, graphics, and videos within the presentation in order for the screen reader to be able to access the information. (And don’t put key information only in a graphic with no alt text!!)

will update the list as I find more resources. Feel free to share your favorite accessibility resources in the comments below!